Media & Press

Oregon sex workers advocate for decriminalization, in their own words

The Oregon Sex Workers Human Rights Commission meeting was a first step in a lot of ways. Oregon Democratic state Rep. Rob Nosse introduced a bill to decriminalize commercial in-person sex acts in the state Legislature this year, but it failed to find widespread support. Members of the commission said they’re focused on educating the public to help future efforts. Eventually, they hope to either support a bill that would decriminalize commercial sex-related offences, or a ballot measure where Oregon voters could pass the law.

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This American Life: There. I Fixed It. 

Special thanks today to former Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Jon Courtney, Lana Wilson, Alan Yu, Clara Ma, Alex Andrews, Blair Hopkins, The Sex Worker Outreach Project, Behind Bars, Keith Chu, Bella Robinson, Ramona Flour, Lorelei Lee, Scott Cunningham, Greg DeAngelo, Aaron Sankin, Gustavo Turner, Julia Robertson, and Congressman Ro Khanna, Alex Levy Yelderman, EJ Dickson, Alice Aster, Kevin Schowengerdt and Emily Wyatt. Our website, thisamericanlife.org.

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Wilson Cruz, Dr. Demetre, Aaron Philip to Grand Marshal NYC Pride

Ceyenne Doroshow is an activist, researcher, and organizer in the trans and sex worker rights’ movements. She is the founder and executive director of G.L.I.T.S., which provides holistic care to LGBTQ+ sex workers. She also serves on the board of directors for various organizations like SWOP Behind Bars, Caribbean Equality Project, SOAR Institute, SWP, TGJIP of San Francisco, and NYTAG. She was named to our Out100 list in 2020.

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The Undead Myth of Sex Trafficking At The Super Bowl

“There’s not any more trafficking; there are just more arrests,” said Blair Hopkins, the deputy director of the Sex Workers Outreach Project Behind Bars, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to currently and formerly incarcerated sex workers. For the past month, Hopkins and her colleagues have been bailing out sex workers caught up in pre-Super Bowl stings. The organization has also released a list of policy proposals for safeguarding sex workers and is trying to put the sports-and-trafficking myth to rest.

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OnlyFans Isn’t Just Porn ;)

Despite all assertions that the site isn’t powered by its sexual content, the platform is synonymous with porn. What is it really?

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Human trafficking operations surrounding the Super Bowl result in dozens of arrests for prostitution

University of South Florida Professor Jill McCracken saw the arrests as a further problem rather than a solution.

“We have these stings that are created and we find that the majority of people are women who are arrested for prostitution,” McCracken said. “Typically people with fewer resources are ultimately the people that we’re snagging in these operations.”

McCracken is the Co-Founder of Sex Workers Outreach Program (SWOP) Behind Bars, a nonprofit serving people impacted by the laws against prostitution.

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What Sex Workers Want Kamala Harris to Know

“I’m thrilled that we have a black woman vice president. I wish it was anyone else but Kamala Harris,” said Alex Andrews, cofounder of Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Behind Bars and former board member of SWOP USA. Andrews and other objected to the “torture” Harris put sex workers through when she was district attorney of San Francisco and attorney general of California. “She helped the Oakland Police Department cover up a lot of the misdeeds that they were doing in regards to sex trafficking,” she added, referring to how Harris declined to intervene in an explosive case in which multiple police officers had sexual contact with underage sex worker Celeste Guap, whose attorney explicitly asked Harris’s office for help. “Kamala Harris didn’t do anything to those cops. She was an active participant in this young woman’s exploitation.”

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Robert Kraft Had His Charges Dropped After Allegedly Getting a Hand Job In a Massage Parlor. The Women Didn’t

Local police initially referred to the investigation as a sex-trafficking sting and much of the media covered it as such, to the chagrin of many sex worker activists. “The language of trafficking and sex trafficking was used over and over again, and ultimately all of these resources went to locate adults engaging in consensual activities,” says Dr. Jill McCracken, co-director of the sex-worker rights group SWOP Behind Bars. “That to me is a huge problem and a waste of resources.” Prosecutors later determined there was no evidence that sex trafficking took place at the establishment. “It was somehow easier for law enforcement officers in South Florida to believe that the women had been sold into sex slavery by a global crime syndicate than to acknowledge that immigrant women of precarious status, hemmed in by circumstance, might choose sex work,” Vanity Fair writer May Jeong wrote in an October 2019 piece about the flawed investigation.

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How L.A. Activists and Allies Are Fighting to End Violence Against Sex Workers

December 17 is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, a day of both solemn remembrance and activism. The commemoration began in 2004 when the founders of the Sex Workers Outreach Project and sex educator, artist and activist Annie Sprinkle joined forces to remember the victims of the Green River Killer, a number of whom were sex workers. For the members and allies of SWOP’s Los Angeles chapter, it’s one of their most important days of the year. SWOP’s list of the deceased is compiled from submissions of loved ones as well as from news sources. In all likelihood, the list is far from complete.

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Human trafficking bill headed back to House after Senate amendments

“The clients who aren’t violent and don’t want any part of trafficking may be discouraged by being put on a registry,” argued Christine Hanavan, who works with the Sex Worker Outreach Project (SWOP) Behind Bars.

“But the ones who traffic, assault, rape and kill are not.”

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Sex Workers Will Finally Be Able to Carry Condoms Without Fear of Arrest in California

“I think we’re going to take a big, huge breath and about a week off,” said Alex Andrews, the cofounder of SWOP Behind Bars, a Florida-based chapter of SWOP which advocates for incarcerated sex workers. “But after that, we’re going to continue to seek more protections for sex workers.”

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NYC Pride announces grand marshals to lead march

Ceyenne Doroshow is a compassionate powerhouse performer, activist, organizer, community-based researcher and public figure in the trans and sex worker rights' movements. As the founder and executive director of G.L.I.T.S., she works to provide holistic care to LGBTQ sex workers while serving on the boards of SWOP Behind Bars, Caribbean Equality Project, SOAR Institute, SWP, TGJIP of San Francisco, and NYTAG. Her presentations include Harm Reduction Coalition, the International AIDS Conferences, and now PRIDE on FX.

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Sex Workers Explain Why the SAFE TECH Act Will Break the Internet

Sex workers would be one of those marginalized groups affected by SAFE TECH, and many fear that their work and safety will be compromised if the bill passes. “I’ve been dreading the inevitable Section 230 reform,” Blair Hopkins, Deputy Director of SWOP Behind Bars told Motherboard. “Section 230 protects sex workers in a kind of ancillary way because it allows them to conduct their business on platforms without interruption from the platforms. SAFE TECH, while not directly aimed at sex workers, has a downstream effect of unintended consequences.” 

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New York City Just Made a Dramatic Announcement Regarding Sex Workers’ Rights

On Wednesday, Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. announced that his office would no longer be prosecuting prostitution and unlicensed massage arrests, and that it would be dropping 914 cases dating all the way back to the 1970s. The office also moved to dismiss more than 5,000 loitering for the purpose of prostitution cases, which stem from the highly controversial “walking while trans” statute, which was repealed last February.

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Sex Workers Assist Women Arrested In Trafficking Stings Leading Up To Big Game

SWOP Behind Bars' Alex Andrews will direct a network of allies to bail out those arrested on prostitution charges. While many will be released on their own recognizance (ROR), repeat offenders can face up to one year in prison in the state of Florida. Sex worker advocates will show up for first appearance hearings to bond out those not granted ROR. Additional volunteers will meet people once they are released from jail to connect them with services. 

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7 Sex Workers Reveal How Their Lives Have Changed During The Pandemic

If you're interested in aiding sex workers who are struggling to make ends meet, follow and subscribe to those whose content you enjoy. You can also donate to sex work advocacy organizations like GLITS, LysistrataMCCF, the Sex Worker Outreach Project, SWOP Behind Bars, and SNAPCO (Solutions Not Punishment Collective). Take the time to see if there are sex worker advocacy and resources in your region — such as DECRIM NY, DECRIM NOW DC, the Chicago Sex Worker Emergency Mutual Aid Fund, or the Atlanta-based Homeless Black Trans Woman Fund.

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Pornhub Made Big Changes To Who Can Upload Videos On The Platform

As Pornhub continues to strengthen protections and user guidelines, the effects of these payment changes may be felt most by sex workers and performers. In a Dec. 10 statement, the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Behind Bars stated in Visa and Mastercard's absence, Pornhub will likely switch to cryptocurrency, leaving sex workers in the lurch. "Because of this decision, many sex workers will be forced even further into the margins," the statement reads. "The action from MasterCard and VISA will cause harm to our already suffering community members and will have zero impact on the Pornhub platform."

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In a Year of Wild Conspiracy Theories, Super Bowl Sex Trafficking Is a Classic

"The consequences of criminalization are devastating," said Alex Andrews, who runs the nonprofit Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Behind Bars. "The public has been led to believe that increased resources for law enforcement efforts will go to 'saving' victims of sexual exploitation, when in fact arrests only hurt those they claim to help." SWOP Behind Bars is running a bail fund to assist sex workers arrested in these stings with getting out of prison after police have seized all their cash. (The group has also put out a very good guide to what should be done instead of our current approach: "On the Super Bowl, Safety and Solidarity.") Partnering with the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, Metro Inclusive Health, LIPS Tampa, and Big John's Bail Bonds, Andrews' group  "has set up a bail and legal assistance fund for sex workers detained by 'anti trafficking' stings around this year's Big Game."

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Florida Is Poised to Create an Anti-“Trafficking” Registry That Will Inevitably Hurt Sex Workers

“It doesn’t matter if this claims to target pimps and johns. We know sex workers will end up on that list,” said Alex Andrews, co-founder of SWOP Behind Bars, an organization that provides support for incarcerated sex workers. Andrews, a former sex worker herself, told The Intercept that the bill’s imprecise language reinforces a long history of law enforcement discourse that is unable, or unwilling, to distinguish between consensual sex workers and trafficking victims, between respectful clients and traffickers.

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Jose Torres: Sex Workers Warned of ‘Predator’ for Years Before His Arrest

Jose Torres is a 42-year-old New Jersey man who has been arrested by federal authorities on charges that accuse him of luring commercial sex workers to travel to him and then using violence, force and threats against them. Torres was arrested on February 14, 2020, but sex workers tell Heavy he has been known as a “predator” in their community for several years. Sex workers dubbed him “Joey the Player,” among other nicknames, and shared his photo, social media profiles, phone numbers, emails and other information through informal whisper networks that the community uses to keep each other safe.

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A Government Database for People Who Pay for Sex Is a Terrible, Dangerous Idea

Alex Andrews, lead organizer at advocacy organization Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Behind Bars, told me in a phone call that to see this bill pushed through to the detriment of already-marginalized communities is deeply disheartening. “It’s frustrating because these things are impacting our community big time,” she said. “They’re very harm-causing, they displace a lot of workers, they mess up lives…. to add a registry to it makes it even worse.” ... Kristen Cain, a sex worker and activist at SWOP Tampa Bay who testified at the March hearing, said that she and other sex workers have presented their concerns to legislators, but they don’t seem to be listening. “I already have friends that are attacked and assaulted during sessions—they can’t go to the police and say, ‘I was assaulted and need some help,’ because all of their info is entered into public record,” she told me in a phone call. “This makes it even harder to say, 'hey I was assaulted,' because not only is it public record, but it goes on a database specifically for this.”

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Coronavirus Fears Are Decimating The Sex Industry

Alex Andrews, the co-founder of SWOP Behind Bars, a community outreach organization that supports incarcerated sex workers, echoed this view, pointing out that the sex industry is remarkably resilient to external events like recessions, political shifts and even, yes, disease outbreaks.   

“I think that we will have a brief drop,” she said, “but ultimately nothing stands in the way of people wanting sex.”

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