On Monday, December 17, I participated in the Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers, held at Thomas Paine Plaza in Philadelphia. There people gathered to honor the memories of people killed while engaged in sex for hire, doing nothing more than raising money to care for their families and to get by. The demonstration continued with a gathering at the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) (http://www.philamoca.org/) for a commemorative reading of names to slain sex workers; a viewing of a TED Talk about the need for sex workers to take part in discussions about their work and how to regulate is (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vc-n852sv3E); and a talk from my friend, Anita DeFrancesco http://anitadefrancesco.com/) about her new book, The Donna Gentile Story, about the murder of her cousin, a sex worker. (http://donnamariegentile.com/)
This is all part of a growing movement to defend the rights of sex workers-be they workers in a house or on the street, pole dancers, escorts, sugar babies, cam girls, porn performers-and to recognize sex work as a real, legitimate form of employment, one carried out by workers like you and me, people trying to earn income to pay their bills, go through college, and care for their loved ones.
We must all support the rights of sex workers to do their trade, to respect their opinions about how and where they work their jobs, their input about what laws affect their work, and their right to be safe from predators. A first step is to eliminate, from our own minds and from our society, our customary shame about sex, the idea that sexual feelings can be denied or repressed; they will always come out, often in the most harmful situations.
I have also been pleased by the continuing advance towards legalizing Marijuana for both recreational and medical uses. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolff has come out in favor of recreational weed; there are similar moves in the state governments of New York and New Jersey. The so-called “War on Drugs” was a propaganda term by Richard Nixon as a means to attack communities of color and anti-war activists, who would be most likely to use marijuana. Since then, for nearly fifty years, billions of dollars have been sent to police departments at all levels to put down the drug trade, millions of innocent people have been incarcerated for just puffing a joint, live have been turned around, communities raided-and the drugs still keep coming in.
Both of these issues-sex work and Marijuana-have been driven by fear and prejudice, while the scientifically based reality shows that it would be best to allow these things to take place legally, and to not demonize or criminalize people participating in them. The commercial news media had a role to play in advancing the politically-motivated misinformation about sex work and Marijuana, has a responsibility to allow intelligent discussion about the medical and recreational benefits of cannabis, and to support the rights of sex workers in dictating how to run their business, as they are the best experts.