June 2nd was International Whores’ Day (or International Sex Workers’ Day, if you prefer) and Mistress Matisse was pissed:
International Whores’ Day commemorates the occupation of Église Saint-Nizier church in Lyon, France by a bunch of sex workers who were even more pissed off than Mistress Matisse. Forced to work in secrecy by the police, they were increasingly the victims of violent attacks. After a series of murders, more than 100 prostitutes invaded the church and held it for 8 days to gain attention for their cause.
This occupation is often considered the start of the modern movement for sex workers’ rights, and International Whores’ Day has been celebrated on June 2 for 45 years.
Naturally, this day pisses off prostitution prohibitionists, who want to wipe out sex work entirely. And like Christians scheduling their holidays to coincide with pagan holidays, prostitution prohibitionists are trying to replace International Whores’ Day with their own re-branded International Day of Remembrance for women who died in prostitution.
What makes this especially creepy is that organizations like Radicailín want stricter laws against prostitution, but anti-prostitution laws are one of the biggest causes of violence against sex workers, because outlawing the way someone makes money does not empower them. In places where sex work is illegal, prostitutes have to work in secret, hidden away from the violent hand of the police, but also isolated from the protective benefits of rights supported by government and community.
If you follow sex workers rights issues, you may know that the traditional day for remembering those who died by violence is not June 2 but December 17, which is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Started in 2003 by Annie Sprinkle and the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA, it is observed all over the world with gatherings and demonstrations.
So you’d think that these people who are expressing so much concern over violence against sex workers would have had something meaningful to say in their twitter feeds on December 17th…wouldn’t you?
Turns out, not so much. A quick Twitter search of Elly Arrow’s twitter feed finds lots of ranting about brothels and pimps, but no recognition that it’s the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. No mention of that year’s victims. No hint of a memorial. Same with Radicailín and the European Network of Migrant Women and AF3IRM.
(To be fair, the folks at Nordic Model Now, also quoted by Mistress Matisse on June 2, did have a single tweet on December 17 mentioning the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, although it included verbiage that used the word “prostituted,” which is much reviled by sex workers for denying their agency.)
The prohibitionists’ failure to recognize the long-established International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers reveals the hollowness of their concern for the victims of violence in the sex trade. It’s clear their attempt to establish an International Day of Remembrance is little more than an excuse for their attempt to erase International Whores’ Day.
Prohibitionists never want to hear from sex workers who want rights rather than rescue, and they don’t want anyone else to hear them either.