From Waking Vixen – Sex Work, Trafficking and Human Rights Week-long Online Forum

From Audacia Ray‘s Waking Vixen Blog

Sex Work, Trafficking, and Human Rights

Ten prominent sex worker advocates, writers, researchers will be publicly discussing the issues of sex work and trafficking from a human rights and harm reduction perspective, February 25 – March 3, on The week-long online conversation begin on February 25 and will conclude with a summary statement on March 3, International Sex Worker Rights Day.

Sex work and trafficking are two issues that must be discussed as distinct yet intersecting, and we’ve invited some of the smartest sex worker advocates we know to help sort out the complexities. “This forum is not about debating whether or not we should be using a harm reduction and human rights approach instead of the more mainstream abolitionist and prohibitionist approach to sex work,” explains Elizabeth Wood, co-founder of Sex In The Public Square and Assistant Professor of Sociology at Nassau Community College. “Instead our goal is to create a space for nuanced exploration of the human rights and harm reduction approach so that we can use it more persuasively.”

Wood explains: “The human rights and harm reduction approach seeks to reduce the dangers that sex workers face and to stop human rights abuses involved in the movement of labor across borders, a movement which occurs in the service of so many industries. We want people to be able to learn about this perspective, and to develop and refine it, without having to dilute that conversation by debating the legitimacy of sex work.”

    Questions and themes include:

Defining our terms: Is the way that we define “porn” clear? “Prostitution”? “Sex work” in general? What happens when we say “porn” and mean all sexually explicit imagery made for the purpose of generating arousal and others hear “porn” as indicating just the “bad stuff” while reserving “erotica” for everything they find acceptable? When we say sex work is it clear what kinds of jobs we’re including?

Understanding our differences: How do inequalities of race, class and gender affect the sex worker rights movement? Are we effective in organizing across those differences?

Identifying common ground: What are the areas of agreement between the abolitionist/prohibitionist perspective and the human rights/harm reduction perspective? For example, we all agree that forced labor is wrong. We all agree that nonconsensual sex is wrong. Is it a helpful strategic move to by highlighting our areas of agreement and then demonstrating why a harm reduction/human rights perspective is better suited to addressing those shared concerns, or are we better served by distancing ourselves from the abolition/prohibition-oriented thinkers?

Evaluating research: What do we think of the actual research generated by prominent abolitionist/prohibitionist scholars like Melissa Farley, Gail Dines, and Robert Jensen? Can we comment on the methods they use to generate the data on which they base their analysis, and then can we comment on the logic of their conclusions based on the data they have?

Framing the issues: What are our biggest frustrations with the way that the human rights/harm reduction perspective is characterized by the abolitionist/prohibitionist folks? How can we effectively respond to or reframe this misrepresentations? What happens when “I oppose human trafficking” becomes a political shield that deflects focus away from issues of migration, labor and human rights?

Exploring broader economic questions: How does the demand for cheap labor undermine human rights-based solutions to exploitation in all industries, including the sex industry?

    Confirmed participants include:

Melissa Gira is a co-founder of the sex worker blog Bound, Not Gagged, the editor of, and reports on sex for Gawker Media’s Valleywag.

Chris Hall is co-founder of Sex In The Public Square and also writes the blog Literate Perversions.

Kerwin Kay has written about the history and present of male street prostitution, and about the politics of sex trafficking. He has been active in the sex workers rights movement for some 10 years. He also edited the anthology Male Lust: Pleasure, Power and Transformation (Haworth Press, 2000) and is finishing a Ph.D. in American Studies at NYU.

Anthony Kennerson blogs on race, class, gender, politics and culture at SmackDog Chronicles, and is a regular contributor to the Blog for Pro-Porn Activism.

Antonia Levy co-chaired the international “Sex Work Matters: Beyond Divides” conference in 2006 and the 2nd Annual Feminist Pedagogy Conference in 2007. She teaches at Brooklyn College, Queens College, and is finishing her Ph.D. at the Graduate Center at CUNY.

Audacia Ray is the author of Naked on the Internet: Hookups, Downloads and Cashing In On Internet Sexploration (Seal Press, 2007), and the writer/producer/director of The Bi Apple. She blogs at hosts and edits Live Girl Review and was longtime executive editor of $pread Magazine.

Amber Rhea is a sex worker advocate, blogger, and organizer of the Sex 2.0 conference on feminism, sexuality and social media and co-founder of the Georgia Podcast Network. Her blog is Being Amber Rhea.

Ren is a sex worker advocate, a stripper, Internet porn performer, swinger, gonzo fan, BDSM tourist, blogger, history buff, feminist expatriate who blogs at Renegade Evolution. She is a founder of the Blog for Pro-porn Activism and a contributor to Bound, Not Gagged and Sex Worker Outreach Project – East.

Stacey Swimme has worked in the sex industry for 10 years. She is a vocal sex worker advocate and is a founding member of Desiree Alliance and Sex Workers Outreach Project USA.

Elizabeth Wood is co-founder of Sex In The Public Square, and Assistant Professor of Sociology at Nassau Community College. She has written about gender, power and interaction in strip clubs, about labor organization at the Lusty Lady Theater, and she blogs regularly about sex and society.

To read or participate in the forum log on to
For more information contact Elizabeth Wood at elizabeth (at) sexinthepublicsquare (dot) org.

For other events and activities related to the International Sex Worker Rights Day please see the sites of Desiree Alliance, SWOP USA, International Network of Sex Work Projects, and other sites and blogs of Sex Work Organizations. This list will be expanded as time allows and information is updated.


Cleaned up and ready to go…

Okay, has cleaned out the crud, and we have uploaded all the old posts and comments. The Courtesan Connection has a lot of work to be done, but you should start seeing over the next few days most of the links re-entered, and hopefully this time, organized in a way that makes sense to all.

Thank you for your patience!

Do Over Dude

It looks like we are looking at a complete wipe and rebuild of The Courtesan Connection in order to clean up the mess caused by constantly recreating the Categories, Pages, and Links.

I am confirming with that this means the blog will essentially go back down to nothing.  However, we will be able to reload all the previous posts and comments from the archive file we have off stored off line.

Once this is confirmed with WordPress, the rebuild will happen shortly there after.  We expect The Courtesan Connection to be down for about a day, probably less.

Sorry for the inconvenience, but this will be of help for the long term health of the blog.

Feed The Need to Read – Two Blogs of Note

Yes this is late. Did you really expect otherwise?

Going through the wreckage that was the “behind the scenes” stuff of this blog, had me realize I had left the previous administration a rather daunting task when she took over this blog last year. It was in far worse shape than I realized, and from the dates on most of the mess, it clearly was not anything done by her. She is owed the most humble of apologizes.

Fortunately, with the improvements to organization and layout that have come with WordPress 2.3, cleaning out the crap, and updating the site, while somewhat time consuming (mostly because of the sheer number of links), recovering from this disaster is possible. More on that next Monday, for now some wandering words on websites of worth.

What brings about the plethora of Award shows in the Winter really is not clear. Perhaps those in the Artistic fields, suffering from a bad case of cabin fever and a need to justify their winter wardrobe, felt New Years was too brief, and the Easter Parade lacking in opportunity for a good party. Regardless of how much sense it makes, the on-line world seems to have kept a similar schedule. And while the czars of fashion fail to be excited by such awards, a Second Life virtual red-carpet appearance as yet not being a clothing trend-setter, for many who write for the on-line world, being able to attach a badge of recognition for a job well done keeps them going when it seems the hit count just is not worth it.

While the Webbies are now pay to play, and the Bloggies closed for nominations back in January, the Blogger’s Choice Awards remain open for nomination. And while there are many bloggers and websites in the Sex Work World which deserve attention and to be added to your feed reader and daily list, the two highlighted today stand out for what they bring to their readers and the Sex Work Community, and perhaps your consideration and nomination email for the BCA’s or other awards.

Bound, Not Gagged, the activist group blog of the Desiree Alliance, has over the past year become the hub of on-line Sex Worker Advocacy in the United States. Demure and deferential it is not. Posts on Bound, Not Gagged (often referred to as “BnG”) are passionate, strong, and at times, unapologetically angry peals against abuse, injustice and ignorance about Sex Work and Sex Workers. This is a blog by people demanding and working to create change, and not willing to wait another generation for it to come about. Discussion and debate are lively on BnG, and honestly, not always thoughtful about the full impact and import of the positions staked out, a fault of many idealists and advocates and some very famous and influential people. BnG though is not a one-dimensional rant limited to politics and news of the latest outrage, it often carries notices and invitations to events and conferences such as the Desiree Alliance’s “Pulling Back the Sheets: Sex, Work and Social Justice” Conference scheduled for July in Chicago. While BnG is USA-centric in much of its writing and point of view, it has repeatedly highlighted and brought attention to the actions and activism of Sex Workers in other countries, and has not shied away from reporting on the abuse and difficulties they face as well. For anyone with an interest in Sex Work, it has become a must read. Informally, the Twitter posts of many of the contributors to BnG often act as a shadow blog to BnG, carrying on many of the discussions in a near real-time format that can be equally engaging.

Of course Bound, Not Gagged and Sex Worker organizations could not accomplish much with out good information, and one of the best news hounds of this community has turned out to be Amanda Brooks. Posting News Bits on the off-the-main-site-SWOP-East blog, Amanda serves up a daily digest of the news of note culled from her own web searches and Google Alerts. But this is not just dry headlines – her summaries are often targeted commentary on the hypocrisy, absurdity, and sheer idiocy of those that report on and act against sex workers with out doing any research or looking beyond what reinforces their own biases and assumptions. This lady will not go quietly into the night. Indeed, much like Napoleon conquered Europe on four hours of sleep a night, noting the time stamp on her News Bits has me wondering if General Brooks is training some stiletto-heeled Valkyries she will unleash as the Vanguard of the Sex Work Revolution & Empire. Don’t forget she is a Texan, and while their speech may have a slow musical drawl to it, they are not really known for their patience, as that fellow in the White House has clearly taught us. Regardless of any future need to prepare your own personal bomb-shelter, SWOP-East is not limited to what Amanda shares, and there is interesting and valuable commentary and updates on the main SWOP-East Blog from their extraordinarily literate and prolific staff and other contributors. Along with many of the other sites and blogs of organizations and individuals in Sex Work, these blogs are an excellent way to keep updated on news and issues that are relevant to the lives and actions of Sex Workers and other interested individuals.

To make it easier for you to keep up with Bound, Not Gagged and the above mentioned off -the-main site-SWOP-East blog, the RSS feeds from those blogs, plus the feeds from SWIRL – The Sex Work Internet Radio Lounge – and $pread Magazine’s $pread Blog, have been added to the left side bar of this site. As the link list is corrected, adjusted and updated, this should make The Courtesan Connection once again of use for keeping up with the many sites and blogs of value.

With this commentary, The Courtesan Connection begins once again to move toward its original purpose – to highlight for its readers what is going on with Sex Worker Blogs and the community they are a part of. There are many blogs and other on-line sites and productions created by and that are of use to the Sex Work community. With some hope, and quite a bit of work, this site may help in making these blogs, resources and organizations more easily found and accessed by those looking for the support and information they provide.

Updates and Plans for the Week – 18 February 2008

Well folks, here is what will be going on with The Courtesan Connection this week –

Posts – There will be one additional post later today (Monday) which will be commentary.  While The Courtesan Connection is under my care, the goal will be for one commentary post a week, updated on Sunday nights for your Monday morning viewing pleasure.   Also on Mondays,  there will be a Updates and Plans post to keep you informed of where we are on link updates, format changes, and the adoption of The Courtesan Connection by a Sex Worker Organization.  Other posts and commentary will be as time allows.

Updates – For the near term, my focus will be on updating the format, categories and links on the WordPress blog.  The Blogspot edition of The Courtesan Connection will be updated with the Updates and Plans posts, but for the moment, not for Commentary.  Nor the links on the Blogspot post changed or updated.  Again, as stated before, this is not due to any problem or deficiency on the work that went into creating the Blogspot edition.  It simply is I am somewhat more comfortable with WordPress, and with my limited time, will make that the focus of my effort for now.  My hope is eventually both blogs will mirror one another in content and links.

Format – This week, I am going to be going over the Categories for the WordPress blog to see what similar categories are used on other sites, and attempt to bring them in line with common usage.   Past experience has me believe this relatively minor update actually will eat up a great deal of time and effort.  However, it will pay off in keeping the blog organized,  updated, and current as things progress.

Links – I hope to begin reviewing and updating all of the links starting on Monday, and coming close to having all currently listed links reviewed and updated by the end of the week.  New links will be added in as identified, but will not be the primary focus until next week.  In the meantime, please leave a comment or send an email with any link you may wish to point out or make me aware of.

One last note on links. While I hold the Blogger who ran The Courtesan Connection for most of the past year in very high regard, I differ with her on including blogs from non-sex-workers as part of the blog roll.  This is not because those blogs are any less worthy of attention.  Many of them are exceptionally well written and offer an interesting and provocative perspective on many of the issues around Sex Work.  However, my belief is the Community of Sex Workers is a voice that far too often goes unheard on the discussion of Sex Work, and regularly is drowned out by the more aggressive and numerous blogs, media, review boards, and on-line groups of the Hobbyists/Clients, Academics, Anti-Sex-Work Individuals and Organizations, and others with their own political or reactionary agenda.  To have one, or even a few places that focus on the ideas, opinions, needs, and stories of Sex Workers alone, seems not an unreasonable approach.  Also, with the limited time I have to maintain this blog, attempting to address and keep updated those blogs would be more than  I could reasonably be expected to accomplish.  As such, I will not be including as part of the blogroll sites by authors who are not or who have not been providers.  However, my long term intent and goal (subject to the adoption of The Courtesan Connection by an organization) is to include as providers, but with their own sub-category, phone-sex and cam-sex bloggers, exotic dancers/strippers, masseuses, models, and sexually explicit media actors and actresses.  While these people may not all face the same issues nor have the same needs and goals, they are doing a type of Sex Work, and may find they have information and points of view that compliment and compare to others in the Sex Work Community.

Finally, regarding the adoption of The Courtesan Connection by a Sex Worker Organization –  I will be working on a rough draft of an email I wish to send to the Organization I’ve been informed may be the right fit for this blog, and sending it to my contact today.  I expect that will allow me to formally address this matter with this organization by the end of the week.  Once that is done, I will post with any other updates as they occur.

For those of you that have remained loyal to this blog, keeping it on your blogroll, feed list or just checking in for updates, thank you once again.   For those of you just dropping by, and finding yourself annoyed with the dead links and odd formatting, please be patient.  Changes are afoot, and there is hope on the horizon!

Mergers and Updates

This is not the announcement you are all awaiting, but still something significant.

The Courtesan Connection today has officially adopted and merged with The Sex Work Index, an attempt to create a collaborative index of information on the Internet of use or interest to Sex Workers, and those researching sex work issues. This means that an organization that adopts these entities will have two tools that help inform, educate, and share information through out the on-line Sex Worker Community.

In preparation for, and to facilitate adoption of both of these sites, your feedback and suggestions are encouraged. Please feel free to leave a comment, or send an email.

As currently there is but one person working on both of these projects, on a part time basis, updating will be limited. For The Courtesan Connection, the primary updates will occur on the WordPress Blog ( ), as I am somewhat more comfortable with that platform. The Blogspot blog ( ), will have some updated posts but links there will be updated last. Those of you that have emailed requesting their blog address to be changed or to be added to the blog lists, it has been noted and will be addressed. Please be patient.

For The Sex Work Index, currently the Refinements (Categories) need revision, and the index itself needs updating. Adding links to the Sex Work Index is easily done using the Google Marker extension . Please see The Sex Work Index blog for more information.

To celebrate this Happy Marriage, I intend on spending Valentines Day  job hunting, dealing with indifferent public servants, cleaning the refrigerator, and formatting a new hard drive after going to my regular wage-slavery. Feel free to toast the screen and give your significant other a kiss for me as the occasion may allow.


Hello all!

For those of you that still keep this blog on your list of links or feeds. Some news.

This post is by the Original Blogger of The Courtesan Connection.  Within the past few months, I have been presented with what I believe will lead The Courtesan Connection to be adopted as a permanent part of an established Sex Worker Organization.  While this is not fully in place as of yet, mostly due to my own sluggishness, once presented with this opportunity, I contacted the person who took the blog over last spring, and she very graciously transfered it back to me.

I want to thank her very much for the work she did to try to keep The Courtesan Connection going. I know she was not able to do as much as she wanted with it, but she did try, and that matters a great deal to me.

This blog has been about the community of Sex Workers and Sex Work bloggers, and really requires more work than can be reasonably expected of a single person, working on it part time, with their own blogs and obligations that take precedence. Having this blog under the auspices and direction of an Organization may make it less personal, but it also offers the chance for it to reach out to many more than it has, and bring to light more of the writing and experiences of those in the myriad of forms that Sex Work takes.

So, for now, do not expect any major changes or updates. I will try to post information as things progress along. But I will not promise you at this point anything happening on a regular schedule.

Hang in there, and thank you for keeping this blog noted.