Entertainment » Movies

Sex Workers Unite

by Kitty Drexel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Jan 23, 2014
Sex Workers Unite

The media lies about life and people all of the time and yet we, the consumers, are likely to believe what it feeds us. For example, media is not kind to prostitutes. They are often portrayed as an idiot with a heart of gold or a junky looking for her next fix. If she's a POC, then she might also be sassy. On rare occasions, she just might enjoy her work but only if it benefits the men with whom she interacts. Even more rare is a story in which a prostitute gets to be herself, untainted by society's definition of what a prostitute is. We define her solely by what she does and not who she is while she does it.

Melinda Chateauvert's "Sex Workers Unite: A History of the Movement from Stonewall to Slut Walk" does exactly what its title describes. It chronicles the successful and unsuccessful efforts of sex workers (exotic dancers, prostitutes, escorts, phone sex workers, camera men at an adult film shoot, craft services for the shoot, etc.). If you work in, near or adjacent to a sex product, you are a sex worker. in the US and abroad to obtain civil rights. Chateauvert begins with the riots at Compton's Cafeteria in San Francisco where LGBTQ sex workers started riots when the police attempted to shut it down. It quickly transitions to the history of the Stonewall riots which were also started by sex workers. History and the equality movements have kept these details hushed for fear of being connected to sexual deviancy.

The focus turns to the organization of sex workers to form their own movement with Feminists, within the sex working industry, and in politics. Other chapters examine so called "ethics" behind attempts to eliminate prostitution from the public and private spheres, the AIDS epidemic, race, the mass production of sex to the masses, violence and the current wave of pro-sex activism.

Chateauvert’s writing is blunt, honest and overwhelmingly liberal. Her dry but positive discussion of sex work and its workers aims to educate the reader. Her mission is to prove that those in the sex work industry are not deviants, addicts or victi

Chateauvert's writing is blunt, honest and overwhelmingly liberal. Her dry but positive discussion of sex work and its employees aims to educate the reader. Her mission is to prove that those in the sex work industry are not deviants, addicts or victims. They are people making conscious choices who deserve equal civil rights and legal representation. She wants their stories told, their histories documented, and their allies counted.

The history she chronicles is largely female oriented. Occasionally, Chateauvert discusses the plight of male sex workers such as in the chapters on the effect of AIDS on sex work, but otherwise, she writes about women. Similarly, her writing documents the US's long struggle to accept the realities of sex work but doesn't touch upon international struggles nearly as often. This is probably because Europe and parts of Asia aren't nearly as backward as the US when it comes to the oldest, yet least recognized profession.

For those of you looking to learn more, "Sex Workers Unite: A History of the Movement from Stonewall to Slut Walk" also includes a detailed reference section for further reading. It is also chock full of footnotes and other goodies to engage non-believers in stirring discourse.


"Sex Workers Unite: A History of the Movement from Stonewall to Slut Walk"
Melinda Chateauvert
Beacon Press
$25.95
http://www.beacon.org/

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