Stacey Swimme

Innovative Thinking On The Sex Industry & Social Justice

Archive for the category “Uncategorized”

“What’s Next?”

Last Friday at the Sex Worker Symposium I led a discussion called “How to be an Ally to Sex Workers.” It was a privilege to be invited by CalPEP to lead this discussion at the end of their day-long symposium attended by social service workers, HIV prevention/treatment workers, sex workers and employees from the departments of public health in Alameda and San Francisco counties.

Throughout the day participants attended workshops that included topics such as:  youth in the sex trade, sex over 50 years of age, Prop 35, transgender sex workers, cultural competency for people working with sex workers and more. The program was amazing. The only complaint I had about it was that there was too much good stuff packed into too short a time period. They had 2-3 days worth of great material packed into concurrent workshops in a single day. It was hard to choose which workshops I was okay with missing.

By the end of the day when my talk began, symposium participants had heard from several sex workers, some allies to sex workers and some foes of sex workers. These foes, however, are people who believe they’re doing good by supporting policies that keep sex workers and our clients criminalized. There is still confusion about the difference between trafficking, exploitation and sex work. Some still believe it’s necessary to arrest prostitutes in order to “rescue” trafficking victims. It was valuable to have this mix of perspectives so that conference participants can be best informed about why sex worker activists are opposed policies such as “End Demand” and Prop 35.

Some who attended my presentation arrived a bit confused. They needed to have explained to them that Prop 35 will further criminalize adult consensual sex workers and give more money to the police who harass us. They needed to learn that our methods of protecting ourselves by screening potential clients, sharing safe clients and sharing apartments/hotel rooms with each other are considered pimping/pandering and that Prop 35 would enhance penalties for those activities. It was more information than could be eloquently presented in such short a time. Nonetheless, this was an invaluable staring point!

The most important question asked during my presentation was “What’s next?” The participant was asking, what do we do if/when Prop 35 passes? How will we minimize the harm caused by Prop 35? How are we all going to work together to improve the safety and well-being of sex workers? It was my favorite moment of the day. In that moment it was clear to me that the symposium was an astounding success. People who do important work in our communities have taken a new interest in sex work and understand that they have a role to play in advocating for policies and projects that both affirm our rights and protect the vulnerable from exploitation. They had learned how to be our allies or at least demonstrated the desire to do so.

We closed with a comment from a participant who pointed out that 30% of the money procured through Prop 35 goes to “training law enforcement officers,” she felt this is an area in which allies should be active, to ensure that this training promotes better relations between officers and sex workers. That’s a great place to start. Our allies must understand that as long as the police view us as criminals, it’s not possible to be treated fairly by them. This symposium was just a beginning, seeds have been planted that will blossom into advocacy that I hope will include: decriminalization of prostitution, protection and resources for runaways and support for mothers/families to end child abuse and sexual abuse in the home. Some other ideas I have for our allies:

  • In-service trainings from sex workers in DPH, at hospitals/health clinics and at domestic violence prevention/service agencies.
  • Invite sex workers to apply for jobs in health, social work and advocacy organizations
  • Participate in December 17th activities
  • Speak out when prostitution busts or other violence against sex workers is reported in the media
  • Discuss these issues with friends and family members

These are just some ideas to get started with. Like I said in my presentation, we’ll have to change hearts before we can change policies. I’m deeply grateful to those who participated in the Symposium, especially the people who organized it! Thank you for your vision and your follow through. I can’t wait to attend again next year!


“Building Bridges in The Sex Industry”

This Friday I’ll be speaking at the Sex Worker Symposium: “Building Bridges in The Sex Industry”  in Oakland, CA at 2:30pm. I’m thrilled about this opportunity to connect with the folks at CalPEP and meet people in the county departments of Public Health from Alameda and San Francisco. They say this is the first annual! Hopefully service providers and county workers coming together to hear from sex workers will become a yearly activity! From their website:

Join us, Friday October 19, 2012 at the Oakland Marriot from 8-5pm for the “Sex Worker Symposium”. This event is open to providers  and both Men & Women in the sex industry . This will be a space to listen to community based service providers, gather resources, ask questions as well as  enjoy yoga, raffles and much more. Registration will begin at 8:00am and both breakfast and lunch is FREE to the firsts 200 people.

The purpose of the Sex Worker Symposium is to increase the strength and diversity of the community-based response to the Sex workers needs through education, training, new partnerships, collaboration and networking. This will be the 1st annual symposium hosted by California Prostitutes Education Project, Sex Worker Outreach Project and Alameda County Public Health Department Office of AIDS . The symposium is a gathering of the sex industry, bringing together all fronts –from all types’ sex workers including street-based, Internet-based, male, Transgender and their advocates; case managers and physicians, to public health workers and advocates, and policymakers–to build support networks, exchange the latest information and learn cutting-edge tools to address the challenges of safety,criminalization and health related concerns.

Oakland Marriot Convention Center

1001 Broadway,


Also, the after party will be at CALpep’s new location, 2811 Adeline from 6-11pm . A $15.00 donation is requested.

Prop 35 Does More Harm Than Good

USPros/Global Women’s Strike have written a fact sheet that clearly illustrates the problems with Prop 35, the full text can be found here.

In summary, they state:

Existing anti-trafficking measures are primarily being used to increase police powers to criminalize sex workers and target immigrant sex workers, in particular women of color, for arrest and deportation.

Existing laws against rape, kidnapping, sexual assault, false imprisonment, extortion . . . could be used to prosecute the real exploiters of women and children. But traffickers and violent men escape prosecution because protecting women and children is not the priority — 94% of rapists don’t see a day in jail and only 50% of reported rapes end in arrest .(1)

Any increase in prostitution among young people has primarily been as a result of the economic crisis and cuts in welfare. The Act says nothing about this or about the continuing criminalization of under 18 year olds for prostitution offences and the fact that criminal records prevent sex workers leaving prostitution.

We urge you to vote no because Proposition 35:


  • Will not help victims of trafficking including those under 18.
  • Will cut victims off from potential support by criminalizing anyone that associates with a young person in prostitution regardless of whether there was any force or coercion involved.
  • Uses phony and sensationalist statistics to exploit the public’s understandable concern about trafficking.
  • Expands the definition of trafficking to include any sex with a minor “because minors are legally incapable of consenting to sexual activity.”
  • Increases police powers to detain and interrogate people under the pretext of looking for trafficked victims including “a minor who has engaged in a commercial sex act”, a “person suspected of prostitution” or “a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault”.
  • Deters young people from coming forward to report exploitation, rape, trafficking and other violence.
  • Takes no account of the economic crisis and cuts in welfare, housing and other resources which is forcing increasing numbers of young people, particularly young mothers, into the sex industry to survive.
  • Encourages corruption. 30% of the funds collected from draconian new fines “shall be granted to law enforcement and prosecution agencies”


  • Gives non-profits a vested interest: 70% of funds collected from fines will go to “public agencies and non-profits”
  • Is an unnecessary expansion of pimping and pandering laws


  • Makes unwarranted changes to the Sex offender law


  • Attacks the internet

Additionally, they provide some useful references:

1. “Robbed, Raped and Jailed: Are Police Departments Underestimating Rape Cases?“ Senate Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Uninvestigated Rape Cases. ABC World News, September 14, 2010.

2. Chang, Grace and Kim, Kathleen, Reconceptualizing Approaches to Human Trafficking: New Directions and Perspectives from the Field(s). ibid

3. “Human Trafficking Evokes Outrage, Little Evidence” by Jerry Markon, Washington Post, September 23, 2007

4. 80% of street workers and 46% of indoor workers experienced violence or threats in the course of their work. “Revolving Door”, Urban Justice Network


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