BSWC: The Black Sex Worker Collective
Posted on September 09 2020
Who's allowed to make money?
The Black Sex Worker Collective is hosting an event on July 21st and 22nd, Who’s Allowed to Make Money? Workers in Solidarity. This is a 22-hour, online-extravaganza, birthday bash across multiple countries, that promises to provide you with proper edutainment. The goal of this event is to raise $43,000 which will directly assist sex workers and freelancers that are impacted by COVID-19. There will be a wide variety of events such as a variety show, burlesque performances, poetry readings, symposiums, workshops, film screenings, and more. Check out the full list of performances here.
So let's talk a little more about sex work, yeah?
Sex work can include but is not limited to the following: prostitution, pornography, nude peepshow performing, erotic nude modeling, phone sex operation, escorting, stripping, camming, working at a massage parlor, and working as a dominant.
But don't assume someone's preferred title, ask. Additionally, some of these professions are more legal than others.
We're no experts on sex work, but we're doing our best to educate ourselves. We want to share what we've learned and want to point you to the people and places that know best. It's incredibly important to listen to those who have experience working in the sex industry because they can speak from experience. A lot of our research and information is coming from interviews and writing by current and former sex workers or sex-worker-led organizations.
BSWC, the Black Sex Worker Collective describes the effects of being a marginalized group whose labor goes unrecognized as real work:
"Restricting sex workers to the margins, outside of what is considered 'real work,' prevents us from participating in labor struggles, as well as limits our access to the protections guaranteed to other workers. Because of current regulatory and conceptual frameworks of sex work as "not real work" our profession has unnecessary impacts on our legal status, health, housing and food security, and our families."
The illegal status of parts of the sex industry puts sex workers in a very dangerous relationship with the police. The police brutality issue within the sex worker community isn't always a part of the bigger conversation on this violence, but it should be. Sex workers or assumed sex workers (such as trans women of color) are often targeted by police and there's nothing they can do about it due to the fear of getting arrested or worse. Too many times have police officers coerced sex from sex workers because of the instilled fear that they will be arrested if they won't comply. Trans women of color are often profiled by police and have received prostitution charges based on their clothing or the possession of condoms. Decriminalizing sex work is a fight for Black Trans Lives Matter. "Incarceration is violent and destructive for everyone, and even more so for trans people. While incarcerated, trans people are often aggressively misgendered, denied health care, punished for expressing their gender identity, and targeted for sexual violence" (ACLU).
Even before COVID, sex workers were struggling to find and keep clients in a safe manner due to the impact of the SESTA and FOSTA bills that were signed in 2018. While these bills aimed to reduce human trafficking, they took a big impact on sex workers who are doing this work because they want or need to. This legislation initiated the removal of the sites that sex workers used to find and vet clients. Check out this link for a quick rundown of the effects of the SESTA and FOSTA bills.
Now, in our COVID-ridden world, many sex workers can’t receive stimulus checks, offline sex workers have lost a majority of their clients as in-person sex work is pretty incompatible with social distancing, and they are often excluded from other forms of work. Right now, there are sex workers forced between choosing to buy food or condoms in order to survive. Many sex workers who did prefer in-person work are taking health risks in order to try to make enough to survive or are forced to navigate online or a combination of the two.
As almost all of you probably know, there are many sex workers who chose to do their work online. You may even be asking, but can't all sex workers start camming? Or using Onlyfans? The answer is yes and no, many are trying, but it's not easy. Being without the proper equipment or experience in this form of sex work puts the individual at a disadvantage for trying to navigate this transition. This equipment costs money and time to get accustomed to it. Online sex work can also force the individual to come up with completely different strategies for finding and entertaining their clients. Furthermore, more and more people are taking up space online to do erotic labor, meaning there's increasing competition for attention, and not every person looking to explore the erotic online is willing to pay to participate. On top of all of this, being a performer or client with kids or a significant other around the house all the time could make it very difficult to get the alone time required.
These factors mean that sex worker’s main form of financial assistance right now is from mutual aid funds set up by other sex workers. So, if you have a few dollars to spare, or $22 to attend part of the BSWC’s upcoming event, we hope you consider donating to their fundraiser or your local mutual aid fund for erotic laborers.
We began working with BSWC, this past month after doing some research on organizations that really resonated with our team. The BSWC is an organization led by MF Akynos and seeks to create a safe space for Black sex workers where their voices, experiences, and needs are listened to and addressed with the proper resources. They supply former and current sex workers with education, legal assistance, healthcare resources, and affordable housing referrals in order to successfully leave & maintain a life outside of the industry.
We wanted to work with BSWC because we stand behind their mission to support the Black sex worker community and to decriminalize sex work. Not only is their community struggling right now but it’s also in our brand’s DNA to fight for people’s right to safe, consensual, and pleasurable intimacy, however that might look. Furthermore, we believe that the fight for Black lives is not over until the most marginalized Black communities feel safe working, living, and loving as their true selves.
So say it with us, loud enough for those in the back:
sex work is emotional and physical labor and if someone wants to do this work, they should be able to do so safely and be paid for their time and energy. Sex workers are human too.
If you want to learn more or aren’t on the same page as us, we recommend following the links below and giving them a read or listen. Our team has read and discussed some of these resources as part of our ongoing commitment to doing more for the causes we believe in. They will show you that the sex worker community is a diverse community and disproportionately consists of Black, people of color, LGBTQIA+, and immigrant erotic laborers. It consists of individuals who prefer sex work and those who had no other choice because every system has pushed them towards this path. Sex workers are often subject to others’ shame, savior complexes, or salutes, but they just want to feel as safe and normal as possible. They are human beings with lives, interests, and relationships outside of their work and they deserve your respect no matter what the rest of their life looks like. Getting to know these individuals outside of their work is an honor that must be earned and requires trust and space free of judgment. At the end of the day, if there's one thing you get out of this, we hope that you realize sex workers don't deserve the inhumane treatment that our world has taught us to show them. Sex work isn't dirty or wrong, it can be an escape from everyday life that allows you to focus on your intimacy, be vulnerable, and forget about everything else.
If you're still wondering why we should decriminalize prostitution, here are some of the possible improvements that the change could make:
- Increased safety for sex workers
- Allows sex workers to report or assist law enforcement in finding sex traffickers or those threatening or causing harm to the workers.
- Reduction in STIs
- Improved access to health and justice services
- Ease the transition out of sex work easier as decriminalization should decrease the discrimination faced while searching for housing and jobs
- Reduce police violence against sex workers
If you’d like to support BSWC or sex worker communities, you can pretty easily by purchasing a ticket to their July 21st & 22nd event or using the resources below as a jumping-off point for your research. As we continue our work with BSWC and potentially other organizations supporting sex workers, we will update our audience with more ways they can help.