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The Sex Worker Open University aims, among other things, to put the voices of sex workers, current and former, at the center of the debate and conversation about sex work.
We want to give a voice to sex workers, whose lives are too often stereotyped and voices too often silenced. We want to challenge media sensationalism, which, hand in hand with the UK government, often represent us as victims or criminals.
This year it will be taking place in Glasgow, which given the attempts to criminalize sex work, and the acceptability of whorephobic and anti sex work ideas in the mainstream may seem like walking into the lion’s den. That is why I believe it is exactly the right place to hold it.
Except for those few antis who make their living from disseminating lies and propaganda about sex work (Bindel, Murphy and Farley I am looking at you) most people think very little about sex work. Their ideas, if they have them are more likely to be formed by the likes of Ruth Jacobs and CSI . They will see street workers as the norm, probably victims of multiple oppressions, and even if they have a heart of gold, only needing the help of a kindly policeman to leave a degrading and exploitative form of work.
Given the images fed to them by the media is it any surprise people don’t realise only 10% are street workers, or that they believe the humane response is to want an end to sex work? Fed on an unrelenting diet of sex workers as victims, dead hooker tropes and misery, people actually believe that criminalization will help, not because they are bad people (with obvious exceptions) but because they know no better.
This is why SWOU is so important, and why having it in Glasgow matters. As well as sex worker only spaces there are a number of events open to the public. From film festival to workshops on reducing stigma and the effect of decriminalization this is a chance to challenge those media myths. Anti’s like to say “you are not representative” usually while not knowing or interacting with any sex workers. Part of the reason Dr Brooke Magnanti is so hated and has to deal with such vile abuse is because she produced ONE book that dared suggest sex work is not unrelenting misery.
SWOU is so important because it stands up and says none of us are representative, we are people, we are straight, gay, queer, male, female,trans*, married, single, black, white, rich, poor, street workers and high profile escorts, we are here and we demand a voice.
The full schedule is below. Share this post, especially with those who might never think of coming to a sex worker organised event. Changing the narrative starts with getting people to realize their prejudices and that sex workers are people too. It ends with understanding sex work policy must have the voices of sex workers at it’s heart.
If you are a sex worker and unsure about attending, do it! The program also includes sex worker only events, skill sharing, confidence building, media engagement, safety, almost anything you can think of!