On September 14, 2022—Sex Worker Pride Day—75 organizations representing sex worker rights, public health, technology, reproductive justice, anti-trafficking, racial justice, and civil and human rights, sent a letter to Congress urging passage of the “SESTA and FOSTA Examination of Secondary Effects for Sex Workers Study Act” or the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act. This bill, reintroduced on March 3, 2022—International Sex Workers Rights Day—in the House by Representative Ro Khanna, and in the Senateby Senator Elizabeth Warren, would study the impact of SESTA/FOSTA on the wellbeing and rights of people who trade sex, including sex workers and human trafficking survivors.
April 15, 2022The Honorable Nancy SkinnerChair, Senate Budget & Fiscal Review Committee California State SenateSacramento, CA 95814The Honorable Sydney Kamlager Chair, Senate Budget Subcommittee 4 California State SenateSacramento, CA 95814The Honorable Phil TingChair, Assembly Budget Committee California State Assembly Sacramento, CA 95814The Honorable Wendy CarrilloChair, Assembly Budget Subcommittee 4 California State AssemblySacramento, CA 95814Subject: Support … Continue reading 2022 CA Coalition’s “housing as healthcare” pilot
VOTE 2020 A Public Service Message Created By SWOP USA / SWOP Behind Bars.
COYOTE RI: An open letter to Senator Whitehouse on upcoming EARN IT Act vote – Uprise RI — Read on upriseri.com/2020-06-30-coyote-ri/ COYOTE RI: An open letter to Senator Whitehouse on upcoming EARN IT Act vote By COYOTE RI June 30, 2020 “Your office was not willing to review any of the evidence based research regarding … Continue reading 2020 COYOTE RI: An open letter on upcoming EARN IT Act
The Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP-USA) also hosted an institute, “Justice and Change: A Sex Worker Institute,” focused on the building blocks of social justice organizing: facilitation, organizing across differences and confronting privilege, political advocacy, decriminalization and decarceration, and coalition building.
August 15, we kicked off our 10th Annual Sexual Freedom Summit. The Summit features human rights activists, sexuality educators and researchers, professionals from the legal and medical fields, authors, sexual freedom movement leaders, and organizational partners all working toward the time when sexual freedom is fully recognized as a fundamental human right. The Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP-USA) also hosted an institute, “Justice and Change: A Sex Worker Institute,” focused on the building blocks of social justice organizing: facilitation, organizing across differences and confronting privilege, political advocacy, decriminalization and decarceration, and coalition building. As one attendee posted on social media: “A big thank you to @KateDAdamo for leading one of the most useful seminars on sex worker political organizing that I’ve ever attended. So concrete! So clear and direct!”
NYC #IWD2019 TWO EVENTS Fri 5/31 FRIDAY PM @mehanata #mehanatabulgarianbar SUNDAY DAY Lorimer and Diggs #McCarrenPark is a public park in Brooklyn, New York City. It is located in both Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Greenpoint, Brooklyn and is bordered by Nassau Avenue, Bayard Street, Lorimer Street and North 12th Street. #decrimnow #makeallwomensafe #strongertogether #sexworkersagainstsextrafficking #sexworker #sexworkers … Continue reading Whores Day Weekend NYC
Torturing Sex Workers, with Melanie Dante: Ken’s guest is Melanie Dante discussing various issues surrounding the sex trades, badly needed decriminalization, and holes in the law that create “viminals”, i.e., making criminals out of victims of sexual abuse.
Support: Amending PA SB 337 To Protect Sex Workers & Survivors
CALL TO ACTION - SB233 - Allow Trafficking Victims and Sex Workers to Report Violence Without Fear of Arrest. This important bill sponsored by SWOP Sacramento, SWOP USA, SWOP LA, St James Infirmary, ESLERP, USPROS, and supported by the ACLU, San Francisco DA, SF County Superviors, and the Gender Health Center. which would prohibit the arrest of individuals engaged in sex work when they come forward as a witness or a victim of specified violent and serious crimes. It will also end the practice of using condoms as evidence of sex work related offenses. Individuals in the sex trade experience and witness extremely high rates of violence but are often reluctant to report crimes for fear of being arrested.
Until prostitutes have equal protection under the law and equal rights as human beings, there is no justice. – Robyn Few
Robyn Few (October 7, 1958 – September 13, 2012) was an American sex workers’ rights activist who worked for the decriminalization of prostitution, against violence targeted at sex workers, and, generally, for the improvement of sex workers’ working conditions. A former prostitute, she founded and directed the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA (SWOP-USA), and helped organize the annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. She was born in Paducah, Kentucky. She advocated the complete removal of prostitution from criminal codes. – WIKIPEDIA
Bloggers note: Robyn was also my professional peer and housemate in San Francisco before all that happened.
2012: Sex workers all over the world were saddened to hear of the death (after a long battle with cancer) of the charismatic and tireless Robyn Few, founder of the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA. When the day finally arrives on which sex work is recognized in the majority of the world as work like any other, hers will be one of the names remembered as instrumental in achieving it.
Robyn L. Spears was born in Paducah, Kentucky, on October 7th, 1958, to Virginia Owen Spears; she had an older brother and a younger sister and lived in the small community of Lone Oak, Kentucky. She attended Lone Oak Elementary and Lone Oak Middle School, but dropped out and ran away from home either during or after her 8th grade year, when she was 13 years old. The causes of her leaving are not clear, but whatever they were she later reconciled with her mother and in fact died while visiting at her home. Like so many runaways she soon turned to survival sex work, and though she later received vocational training to be a materials tester for concrete and tried a few “straight” jobs such as drafting, she was never satisfied with these and became a stripper soon after turning 18. As she says in the video below (recorded in Chicago in July of 2008), “I loved it so much; it was so empowering to be able to get up on the stage…I came alive, and for me being paid to dance and to show my body [that] I was so proud of anyway…it was just an amazing experience.”
After stripping for a while she started working in a massage parlor, then later escort services and a clandestine brothel; in her late 20s she married one of her clients and had a daughter, but after her divorce in 1993 (after which she retained her married name, Few) she moved to California and began to take college classes with the intent of earning a degree in theater. She became interested in marijuana and AIDS activism, but the bills had to be paid so she returned to escorting in 1996 and soon became a madam. Like so many of us, she never told anybody about her sex work; her activism was directed toward other causes until fate decreed otherwise.
The events of September 11th, 2001 engendered a heightened climate of paranoia, and the enactment of the PATRIOT Act soon made an unprecedented level of funding available to any government agency which could make even a remote claim to “fighting terrorism”. And though then-Attorney General Ashcroft had been strongly rebuked by Congress for devoting more FBI agents to the “Canal Street Brothel” case in New Orleans than to counterterrorist operations, he had learned his lesson and justified later whore persecutions with flimsy “anti-terrorism” excuses. Robyn’s agency was accused of having “terrorist suspects” as clients and she was arrested in June of 2002, then convicted of “conspiracy to promote prostitution” and sentenced to six months house arrest (during which the trial judge allowed her to continue her activism). After her arrest, she was angry to discover that both neighbors and supposedly “enlightened” activists treated her differently once they knew she had been a prostitute; she threw herself even harder into medical marijuana activism, but began to think about how people’s ignorant attitudes and the oppressive anti-sex work laws could be changed.
Her inspiration came a year after her arrest, in the form of the US Supreme Court decision Lawrence vs. Texas: Justice Antonin Scalia pointed out in his dissenting opinion that “state laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of [the overturned Bowers vs. Hardwick decision’s] validation of laws based on moral choices,” and though the other justices tried to pretend otherwise Robyn knew that Scalia was correct, and that the court had opened a door for sex workers’ rights. So after a Berkeley, California high-school teacher named Shannon Williams was arrested for prostitution in August, Robyn gathered a group of sex workers to protest outside the courthouse at Williams’ arraignment in September. Unfortunately (but understandably), Williams wanted the whole mess to go away as soon as possible and so had no desire to become the “poster child” for prostitutes’ rights. Robyn of course backed down, but the fire had been lit; with the help of her partner Michael Foley and sex worker Stacy Swimme (whom she had met earlier that year at a medical marijuana protest), she founded SWOP-USA the following month.
The organization was modeled on SWOP Australia, and Rachel Wotton (who now specializes in sex work with the disabled) was instrumental in securing permission for the American group to use the name and helping to set things up. Within a few weeks the new organization was contacted by Dr. Annie Sprinkle for assistance in arranging the very first Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers, and for the next year Robyn worked furiously to contact politicians and get the attention of the media so as to let them know that sex workers were not going to quietly accept persecution any more, and were mobilizing like those in many other parts of the world to demand our rights. But after the failure of “Proposition Q”, a ballot measure she wrote which would have established de facto decriminalization in Berkeley, Robyn and SWOP settled in for the long haul and committed themselves to the slow, arduous task of reversing centuries of stigma and decades of oppressive legislation.
Shortly after the two shorter videos were recorded at the International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harms in Warsaw, Poland (May of 2007), Robyn was diagnosed with cancer; she continued to work tirelessly for the cause all through her chemotherapy, and though the disease appeared to have gone into remission in January of 2010 it returned by July of 2011, and this time proved terminal. She died on September 13th, 2012 while visiting her mother, and there will be a memorial service on what would have been her 54th birthday (October 7th, 2012) at the Milner and Orr Funeral Home in Lone Oak . I never had the pleasure of meeting Robyn, but as you can see from the personal accounts on her website and the many expressions of grief all over the internet, those who did speak without exception of her warmth, her strength, her good humor, her courage and her plain human decency. And though it’s an oft-used phrase, there is no other which sums up the way everyone in the sex worker rights community feels about her passing: she will be sorely missed.
(Cross-posted from The Honest Courtesan. I am indebted to the Sin City Alternative Professionals’ Association (formerly SWOP-LV) for information and links, and also to a group of Robyn’s school friends from Lone Oak, who contacted me Sunday morning and filled in a number of vital details I could not find anywhere else. If anyone reading this can correct an error or omission, please email me with the info.)
Until prostitutes have equal protection under the law and equal rights as human beings, there is no justice. – Robyn Few
Last Thursday, sex workers all over the world were saddened to hear of the death (after a long battle with cancer) of the charismatic and tireless Robyn Few, founder of the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA. When the day finally arrives on which sex work is recognized in the majority of the world as work like any other, hers will be one of the names remembered as instrumental in achieving it.
Robyn L. Spears was born in Paducah, Kentucky, on October 7th, 1958, to Virginia Owen Spears; she had an older brother and a younger sister and lived in the small community of Lone Oak, Kentucky. She attended Lone Oak Elementary and Lone Oak Middle School, but dropped out and ran away from home either…
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JAN 10 • Thank you so much for your fair and balanced coverage of the 15th Annual IDTEVASW. Since 2012 SWOP and SAFE have strived to stand up and speak out in Philly on issues specific to stigma and gratuitous violence against sex workers. Folks are always amazed at how hard and painful this event is to do, yet in the end how truly blessed we are to be able to come together to do it. Many households in most areas of Greater Philadelphia, if not all of PA, are touched somehow by this issue. Talking about sex work and prostitution is hard. Living in shame and silence is harder. D/17 is not fun, though it is full of love. Truly. We are here because we have been there, and we care. Our voice is their voice. Thank you for covering the memorial. Words cannot even express the gratitude I feel right now. Philly is proving we got LOVE!