WHO WE ARE ….
The Sex Worker Open University project brings together sex workers, academics, activists, artists and allies to explore the richness, diversity and contradictions of the sex industry. We want to give a voice to sex workers, whose lives are too often stereotyped and voices too often silenced. We want to challenge media sensationalism, which, hand in hand with the UK government, often represent us as victims or criminals.
Some politicians, religious representatives and part of the feminist movement claim that all sex workers are victims and that all sex work is violent or immoral. But many sex workers are feminists and we support the right of all consenting adults to express our sexuality as we wish and to enjoy the same rights as other workers.
For many of us, sex work is a choice.
We are full member of this society, with skills and abilities, whether erotic massage, healing, BDSM, acting and performance skills, entrepreneurial talents, strip tease or a compassionate, attentive and non-judgmental ear.
We know that in the sex industry there are, like in many other parts of the service industry, forms of abuse, exploitation and violence. We also experience every day how criminalisation increases our vulnerability and oppression.
We refuse to let the issue of trafficking be used to criminalise us all, and we fight for support for all migrants as well as victims of
trafficking and against their deportations.
We support the right of any woman, man and transgender person to exit the sex
industry, and see the core problems for many who wish to exit not as sex work itself but poverty, lack of education, domestic violence and the criminalisation of drug users.
Our time has come. A society that recognises, accepts, respects and values sex workers is a fairer and more mature society. Join us at the Sex Worker Open University!
Friday, 10 April 2009
The organisers of London’s first Sex Worker Open University (April 1-5 2009) would like to thank everyone who participated for making the event an enormous success. Over 200 sex workers, sex workers’ rights activists, allies and visitors from the UK and abroad took part in workshops, discussions, actions and art exhibits over five days.
On the eve of the SWOU sex workers took to the streets for a ‘Speak Out’ against the criminalisation of the sex industry at the Eros Fountain at Piccadilly Circus, co-organised with the x:talk project. The university then held its launch event at Queen Mary, University of London, where sex workers, activists and academics made presentations and showed films about sex workers’ movements around the world, from Argentina and Costa Rica to New Zealand, Canada, Cambodia, Denmark, Germany and the UK. From action and academia to activist art: we followed up with the opening of the photography exhibit ‘Prostitutes of Europe’, featuring black and white images of sex workers from 12 European cities by Mathilde Bouvard. The photos gracing the main hall of the London Action Resource Centre (LARC) in East London formed the backdrop for two days of skills exchange and discussion, from practical sessions (erotic dance, self defence, emotional safety) to information and debate (feminist anti-prostitution arguments, anonymity, sex worker outreach projects). The event closed with a plenary on ‘where to go now’ and a party with sex worker performances at Ramparts Social Centre,
The SWOU was featured in The Evening Standard, The Independent, The Guardian and London Lite. Press coverage of sex workers coming together to share experiences and skills, and make noise and politics offered a welcome alternative to the normally negative, stereotypical and sensationalist media representations of the sex industry.
A special thank you to all those who ran workshops and made
presentations, organised, set up and cleaned the venues, baked cakes,
cooked food and ran the bar, DJ’d and performed, travelled from far and
wide to join us, and otherwise helped to make this amazing event happen. The enthusiasm and solidarity generated by the weekend will now carry us forward to new projects: a sex worker magazine, a social networking site (www.swarm-up.org) and a sex worker film festival in London in autumn 2009. To keep up with the latest and get involved, visit http://sexworkeropenuniversity.blogspot.com/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Luca D. at 05:31
Thursday, 26 February 2009
Welcome to the Sexworker Open University blog!
Our events will take place between Tuesday 31st of March and Sunday 5th of April at Queen Mary University, Mile End and London Action Ressource Centre, Whitechapel.
Email us if you would like to propose a workshop, facilitate a discussion, or volunteer ( door, bar, flyering etc ..) : email@example.com
check this website for an overview of the pros and cons (and a very detailled historical timeline) in the sexwork debate : Prostitution ProCon.org
Here are some informations about some of our action, workshops and the facilitators:
Tuesday 31st of March
Speak Out + Stand Up for Sex Worker Rights
2pm at the Eros Fountain, Piccadilly Circus
Workers in the sex industry and their allies are speaking out against the Policing and Crime Bill. This Bill will further criminalise those of us in the sex industry in the UK, whether we work by CHOICE, CIRCUMSTANCE or COERCION.
It criminalises our clients, increases penalties for soliciting and imposes measures for forced rehabilitation. It is based on a lack of evidence about the sex industry, and without taking the views of sexworkers and our organisations into account. The Bill will make it less, not more, safe for us to work, whether as strippers, escorts, working girls, maids or models. It is crucial that the current climate of fear, raids, deportation and arrests be met with solidarity and a demand for justice. It is time to make sure our voices are heard. Join us.
This speak out is called by x:talk, a sex worker-led project which provides free English classes for migrants in the sex industry.For more info go to http://www.xtalkproject.net/.
To add your name to the Speak Out please email: firstname.lastname@example.org please distribute this information to all networks.
Wednesday 1st of April:
INTERNATIONAL SEXWORKERS’ RIGHTS’ MOVEMENTS ,
Presentation, videos and debate.
“Sex workers in Denmark organize” – fighting for their rights!
by Zanne La Bestia, sex worker for more than 20 years, and co-founder of the danish sex workers interests organization – SIO.
“The situation for sexworkers in Germany”, Ariane de St Phallus
“The situation for sexworkers in New Zealand” , Clare.
“Prostitutes of Europe”, Mathilde Bouvard.
Presentation by the artist ( see below for more info. Opening on Friday 3rd of March )
“Sexworker movement in Costa Rica “, Megan Rivers-Moore.
Sex workers have been organising all over Latin America in unions, collectives and organisations for over fifteen years. Looking specifically at examples from Costa Rica and Argentina, but drawing on the experiences all over the region, this talk will look at the successes, difficulties, trials and tribulations of generating sex worker political action.
"Feminism and the sex work movement"
Laura Schwartz is a member of Feminist Fightback, an anti-capitalist activist
network. She will talk about organising as a sex worker ally in the feminist
movement, arguing that 'feminists need sex workers just as sex workers need
Video and presentation by Nick Mai.
Nick Mai is Senior Research Fellow in Migrations and Immigrations at ISET, the Institute for the Study of European Transformations of London Metropolitan University. He is currently leading a 2 year-long ESRC funded project on ‘Migrants in the UK sex industry. His main research interest isthe nexus between sexuality, gender and migration, with particular reference to the relation between migration and international sex work.Nick undertook research on these topics in Albania, France, Greece, Italy,Morocco, Romania, Spain, Tunisia and the UK. Nick will be showing his first short documentary about young migrant menselling sex in Seville, Spain and will talk about the research which encompassed it.
Choice of videos representative of the international struggle for sexworkers’ rights.
Friday 3rd of April:
“Prostitutes of Europe” is a socio-artistic project with a European dimension. Through a European City Tour, Mathilde Bouvard was getting in touch with sexworkers who willingly work in this field, taking pictures and recording their testimonies. She was to Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Prague, Stockholm, Budapest, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Geneva, London, Bern and Marseille. From these meetings stayed testimonies, photos, and sometimes, simple moments of sharing, which we shall find on no wall. From this photoreport ensues a selection of 45 black and white photographies, with 3 paintings and written testimonies. The photographies reflect a different glance on the prostitution, far from the usual stereotypes. The prostitution, as said Pascale, ancient sexworker of Bois de Boulogne- Paris: “ It is far from being a piece of pavement. It is a whole life. A way of life.” The exhibition is completed by videos and sound creations by Clémence Demesme (Brussels) and Claire Fenateau aka Mamajih (Paris- London), as well as a complete information about prostitution with help of associations(“Hydra” in Berlin, “Les Putes “ and “A.N.A” in Paris, “Aspasie” in Geneva, “Espace P” in Brussels, “ECP” in London…).
The project: The purpose of this project is to create a series of exhibitions, from which a part of any profits made will be given to these associations, in order to allow them to continue their work under the best available conditions. These associations do take an important part in social inclusion work for people confronted to difficult life conditions, as well as in the health prevention (AIDS) and free medical assistance. Association like “Espace P” in Brussels is also working on promoting a better understanding between local neighbourhood and sexworkers, by trying to establish greater tolerance through open dialogue. . Also it should allow a large public to become more aware of the social and human aspect of this activity (the prostitution) and its complex situation in Europe. The project is supported by the European Community. The exhibition is already set for Paris (and will be a part of “Assises Européennes de la Prostitution” in “Théâtre de l..Odéon” in March 2009), Berlin, Brussels (“Maison du Livre” December 2008, and will take part of the International Day for AIDS),Geneva ( Automn 2009, and will take part of the creation of the information center Griselidis Real, Avignon, London and Liège. The material will be diverse: photos, written testimonies, pictorial compositions, sound creations and videos. It will add to it a whole information campaign about prostitution. Indeed, confusion persists too often between sexual slavery / white slavery and individuals who choses volontary prostitution and fight to gain recognition for their right (Grisélidis Réal). Eventually, we will include information about associations.. work, through papers, conferences, workshops…
Saturday 4th of April,
Workshops and debates.
Self defence for sex workers by Vinny and Clare
Many self-defence workshops focus on situations where there is other people around, lots of space, and everyone is on their feet. But what if you’re already lying down, on your knees, or up against a wall? This is workshop developed especially for sex workers, with scenarios specific to sex work.
The tutors : Vinny is a transman who is trained in a mixture or self-defence, boxing, exercise and fitness. He is a qualified Boxing tutor and also qualified exercise and fitness instructor. As well as being involved in many community projects. His accomplice is Clare Katjuscha, who lives in Berlin making queer smut films and working as a hooker. Shes worked in everything from seedy dark brothels, fetish clubs to upperclass escort – and realised pretty quick she had to learn to fight.
“Trans-friendly Boxing, Self-defense and Fitness” : www.myspace.com/t_boxing
Erotic Dance, by Solitaire
Solitaire has been working as a striptease artist in and around London for six years. Originally trained as a journalist, she followed her life’s dream to be a stripper after seeing an advert for London School OfStriptease. She has been nominated in the Stripper of the Year category at the Erotic Awards twice, and sat on the judging panel for three years running. In addition to dancing, she models, teaches and writes. Her website is http://www.solitairelondon.co.uk/. For this event, Solitaire will be teaching an erotic dance workshop, showing you how to use your body to seduce and entrance through the medium of dance. The workshop is women-only – sorry, boys!
Tips for wannabe sexworkers by Luca D.
After many years working in the sex industry, I have met many people who wanted to start either as erotic masseur, escort, pro-dom or in porn. This workshop will be an informal discussion on how to start working in the industry, what is the legal situation in the UK, which practical and emotionnal parameters you shoul take into account etc… This workshop is also a proof that, contrary to the abolitionist victimising and limited view, sexwork can be, and is often, a choice for many people.
Luca D. has been working in the sex industry for many years, is the co-founder of the Sexworker Open University and an activist for queers’ rights, sexworkers’ right and social justice.
Taking the feminist anti-prostitution argument seriously, by Carrie Hamilton
The ‘all prostitution is violence’ argument, often put forward by self-proclaimed feminists, simplifies the realities of the sex industry and the experiences of many sex workers. At the same time, sex workers’ rights activists often dismiss anti-prostitution activists as ‘rad fems’ or ‘prudes’. At this workshop, I propose we move beyond the name-calling and look more carefully at the feminist anti-prostitution argument. Radical feminism continues to offer an important critique of gendered power relations and the sexual and economic exploitation ofwomen in all societies. Feminists of colour also rightly critique the widespread racism and class exploitation in the global sex industry. Sex workers’ rights activists must engage with these issues seriously if we are to build a strong, inclusive political movement.
Carrie Hamilton is an activist and academic who’s been around feminist and queer circles for more than half her life. She’s also a former sex worker and long-time ally of sex workers and all those who want to make the sex industry a safer and smarter space.
Some like it rough / Working as a professional submissive, by Clare.
Despite some perceptions that everyone working in BDSM are dominas, many choose to play the receiving end instead. It’s a concept which seems to horrify many supposedly liberated people…This workshop is a basic intro into concepts of subbing, the differences between bottoming in personal life and doing it in a work relationship. And focusing on important physical and emotional safety tips + infos.
Clare Katjuscha lives in Berlin, makes queer smut films and does both vanilla and BDSM sex work (mostly as submissive – but not always!). She also writes about sexwork, migration and the myth of sexworkers as passive victims.
Keeping yourself emotionnaly safe.
Dr Vas Deferens is a sex therapist and psychotherapist with almost thirty years experience of working with gender and sexual minorities. His day job is Director of Pink Therapy – the UK’s largest independent therapy organisation to specialise in gender and sexual minority therapy. He will be sharing techniques from Thought Field Therapy (Callahan Techniques), one of the most exciting developments in therapy work – and the cornerstone of energy psychologies and meridian therapy.
Sunday 5th of April
Workshops, debates and party !
Identity and Anonymity by Zanne La Bestia
Presentation of sexworkers projects and outreach ( groups to
be confirmed )
The Porn Industry and Safer Sex
A discussion re working practices, particularly around barebacking in gay porn. Is it safe for Models? (The Testing Question)
And does it set a good example to porn consumers (The Sex education Question)
What do sex workers think?
Featuring Christian Marshall, director of Hardcore Film & TV Series
Wrestling, by Miss Karabina
Get down and dirty and learn some moves, locks and grips of this highly demanded fetish service !
Survivor, healing and sexwork, debate facilitated by Luca D.
One of the argument used against self-representations of sexworkers is the idea that most sexworkers were victims of child abuse and are therefore not able to speak for themselves. We will look at how this dubious and unverifiable argument does nothing for the empowerement of sex workers and/or survivors of child abuse. We will also look at sexwork as a form of healing, for the client and the service provider.
Luca D. is an erotic masseur, BDSM-kink escort, as well an activist for sexworkers’ rights, queer rights and social justice.
Closure debate : Vision of the future of the sexworker movement in the Uk.
This last workshop will be an opportunity to give a feedback on the Sexworker Open University and dream of the future of the sexworker movement. One of the aim is to create a list of demands to the government and talk about the creation of a sexworkers and allies’ magazine.
Film ( to be announced )
Other workshops ( to be confirmed ) :
Sexworker movement in San Francisco and the U.S
Sunday 5th from 9 pm til late : to be confirmed
At RampART social center, Rampart Street
15 -17 Rampart Street, London E1 2LA (near Whitechapel, off Commercial Rd)
DJs and Performances … check this space for more infos !!!