I’ve taken giant steps backwards from activism and activist communities in the past year. There have been a lot of factors, some of which have been deeply personal and some of which have been struggles with activist institutions and communities themselves. However, despite my ambivalence about “formal” organizing and activism, one thing that has not wavered has been my dedication to sex work communities. While I’ve been pulling back from sex work activism, I’ve been much happier and successful as a sex worker and forming stronger bonds with other sex workers. Go figure.
Being the director of SWOP-LA wasn’t good for me. It was never a position I particularly wanted, nor a structure I was completely comfortable with. I didn’t want to speak “for” sex workers. I didn’t want a “leadership position.” And I didn’t want to do the enormous amount of bureaucratic work that went with the position. I think I’m ok at it, but I don’t think it plays to my best strengths. I was overwhelmed by the responsibility I felt, and then resentful because I felt like I didn’t have a choice.
At the same time, I kind of got off on the recognition. It felt good to have business cards that had a real position on them. I liked the awe and respect people showed when I described what I did. And I took real pride in both mine and SWOP’s accomplishments. I don’t think that any of those are necessarily bad things. But it distracted from some of the toll the forms my activist efforts were taking on me.
Writing, presenting, conferences, email lists, conference calls, and fundraisers were never what I wanted my top activist priorities to be. Building strong communities of sex workers was, and is. Again, it’s not that any of those are bad or unproductive things. They just took time from other goals. One of the things I’m most proud of helping to organize as a sex work activist didn’t happen through any official organizations. It happened because sex workers and allies could be connected through a network of mutual friends and acquaintances. Maybe it’s weak or depoliticized activism, but that’s what I want to focus on.
In that spirit – the next Sex Worker Social is much more informal. So informal, in fact, that it’s also a birthday party for Vanessa and not limited to current or former sex workers exclusively. We’ve built some pretty kick ass friendships and camaraderie in LA, and we’re going to keep strengthening that.
More to come soon.