Harlots Parlour

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Help vs. Liberation

SixtoedKitties, a New York sex worker now living in Colorado, is politically inspired by Australia’s indigenous movement:

I ran across the following quote the other day by indigenous Australian Lilla Watson: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”


Help usually comes with an agenda. Ask anyone who has ever been hospitalized or medicated against their will. Ask any sex worker who has been “helped” by being arrested and maybe assigned to a diversion program with its own agenda. Help is very often coercive.

Now, I’m not trying to argue against the existence of service providers. Service providers exist because services are needed. But there is always a power differential in play between service providers and the people who receive their services, and this power differential often manifests in very coercive ways.

I have one obvious example from when I was hospitalized at St. Vincent’s, an NYC hospital that is now closed due to bankruptcy. I met a man there, an artist, who I still consider a friend. He was being treated with electro-shock therapy against his will. St. Vincent’s had procured a court order to perform ECT and they physically and chemically forced him to comply.

Every time I am seen for a psychiatric appointment, I have to worry that the person I am seeing will “fear for my safety” and hospitalize me without real cause due to my history of suicide attempts. But this does not apply only to psychiatric services. This is true of any court-ordered diversion program, whether for drugs, alcohol, or prostitution.

Often these programs are religious, and they always see the drugs/alcohol/prostitution as something that needs to be “treated” away. A disease, an affliction, or a character flaw. They are the authority, and they decide what is best for you. This is built in to the “helping” relationship; the “helper” is an authority who can make decisions, often harmful decisions, on behalf of the “helpee.”

Communities working together, fighting together, bound up in the same and similar struggles. This is the power of rights organizing… There is so much power in our movements that is not being used effectively, because we need to build coalitions.

Read the full post here, and follow Sixtoedkitties here.

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This entry was posted on 12 July, 2010 by in Uncategorized.
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