On a recent Thursday at a bar in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Jacq the Stripper was warming up a small crowd of ten or fifteen people who had come to attend a fund-raiser for the Black Sex Workers Collective. For sex workers in the business by choice, however, the most ubiquitous and affordable advertising platform was now gone.
Back is not the first sex-work-advertising platform the government has shut down—there was MyRedBook, inand Rentboy, in Craigslist voluntarily shut down its erotic services section inin response to warnings from the Justice Department.
The list of sites that have gone offline or blocked U. Instagram is hiding some posts tagged lingerie. In the aftermath of the new law, sex workers have claimed that efforts to control sex work in the name of public safety are forcing them into riskier situations—working with unknown clients, who they can no longer screen, or on the streets, where the risk of violence is greater.
And the victims will more often be trans workers, disabled workers, workers of color, and trafficking survivors—those of us who never had many options to begin with. Shekera, the founder of the Black Sex Workers Collective, took the stage.
Shekera, who grew up in New York City and began working as a stripper to support herself at seventeen, after the birth of her first child, also works as a house cleaner and is a graduate student in a low-residency M. She wore an Elizabethan brocade dress and a pair of red fur angel wings.
She had bought a domain name and started social-media feeds several years before, envisioning a mutual-care fund that would offer emotional support and help with financial emergencies for black current and former sex workers in New York.
The Black Sex Worker Collective fund-raiser was only one event in what has in recent weeks become a large-scale mobilization of sex workers across the country. The activism has ranged from practical financial and legal assistance to calls for decriminalization. After a long history of being sidelined by the feminist, L. At another fund-raiser I attended in Brooklyn, in May, for a sex-worker emergency fund called the Lysistrata Mutual Care Collective and Fund, kink enthusiasts bid on a silent auction with items like a custom-made leather dog collar or a one-hour whip session while a performer hung upside down from the ceiling in a rope-bondage performance.
The night after the Black Sex Workers Collective fund-raiser, I attended a know-your-rights legal training, hosted by the Sharmus Outlaw Advocacy and Rights SOAR Institute, for sex workers adjusting to the new legal reality, where sex workers helped themselves to soda and white wine while attorneys from the Legal Aid Society of New York explained the importance of encrypting communications and not consenting to a search if arrested.
On June 1st, some forty sex workers convened in Washington to lobby lawmakers for decriminalization. In San Francisco, a group of sex workers protested outside a standup-comedy show where Amy Schumer was appearing. Schumer has made jokes at the expense of strippers in the past, and appeared in a public-service announcement in support of SESTA.
On June 6th, the feminist Third Wave Fund announced a nationwide round of grants for sex-worker-led organizations.
Two days after the Black Sex Workers Collective fund-raiser, sex workers and their supporters participated in rallies and protests in New York, Washington, D. It was Saturday, International Whores Day, which commemorates the occupation of a church in Lyon, France, by prostitutes protesting police harassment in Shortly after 1 P.
Ceyenne Doroshow, the founder of Gays and Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society, or GLITSwhich advocates for the health and safety of transgender sex workers, addressed the six or seven sex workers and advocates gathered on the steps.
Doroshow fanned herself with a pink fan.
It was a monstrously humid day, eighty-six degrees, when even a chic black bolero jacket could become a sweatsuit. She looked unruffled, in makeup that would have survived a Turkish sauna.
The government is taking this away. Now, mind you, our President?
He a ho. He has profited off a ho.
So now we have the government coming after us. So, again: June 2nd is International Whores Day, and whores, I want you all to get out, get out, give some up. I think for International Whores Day we should all just lock it down, just lock it down.
For the several-block trek, Doroshow changed out of her stilettos into Beverly Hills Polo Club-brand athletic slides. The women stopped for slices of pizza on West Fourth.
The mood was upbeat. Doroshow paused outside the rally to lean against some scaffolding and put her stilettos back on, handing the paper plate with the rest of her pizza on it to a friend.
The group took a few nips from a bottle, then made their way into the park. A protest organizer in a kerchief and sunglasses who went by the name Red took to the loudspeaker.
A plan was outlined to march back to Washington Square Park. Next to me, her stilettos back on, Doroshow sighed.
So this space matters because of them! As Red, who prefers to be referred to with the pronoun they, finished their announcement, another protester took the loudspeaker from them.
A transgender activist named Mariah Lopez, who runs an organization called the Strategic Trans Alliance for Radical Reform, asked the protesters to her afterward at Kings County Criminal Court, for the arraignment of two women who had been arrested for loitering with the intent to prostitute in Bushwick the night before. The activists were several hundred inand as they entered Washington Square Park flocks of pigeons flew up into the trees.
Once the group arrived at Washington Square Arch, they formed a large circle. Under the relentless midday sun, huddling under their red parasols, the speakers shared their stories. They called for the decriminalization of sex work, the right to safe housing for homeless gay teens, and emphasized the importance of peer-led community care funds. Liberals: stop saving me.
Gay pride: stop ignoring me! I am a taxpayer, a voter, I am on the fucking P. Later that evening, I arrived at the Kings County Criminal Court to find Mariah Lopez, the woman who had called for protesters to support her trans friends who had been arrested, making a complaint to the security guard. No one else from the protest was present.
Lopez is well known among the cops and bailiffs and Legal Aid lawyers, and has sued the city successfully several times, including, as a teen-ager, demanding the right to her gender identity, in When I had stood chatting to her in Washington Square Park earlier, she had suddenly gestured at a white man wearing a gray suit and a tie who stood off to one side with two other men in civilian clothes. Lopez abandoned the conversation in the lobby, both of them glaring.
Finally, around P. She moved down the bench to be in their line of sight.
One of them, Tiffaney Grissom, met her eyes. Both women were charged with loitering for the purposes of prostitution, the charge at the center of the class-action lawsuit.
The arraignment took less than five minutes; Kings County refers low-level misdemeanor cases to a special court. Both defendants chose June 27th.
Their court dates set, and released from their handcuffs, Lopez led the two women out into the lobby. Lopez hugged Tatiana Hall, who was tearing up. It was her first time getting arrested.
We went outside and they told their stories. The police arrested Grissom first, around 4 A. Both said they were simply outside on the street. Hall had been talking to a man—a gay man, she added.
Grissom said she was alone. The Internet just made you have that false hope and you got comfortable and now the rug has been pulled out from underneath you. But it had been a long day, preceded, at least for the two of them, by a long night in jail. Grissom needed a cigarette.
The three women said goodbye and started walking toward Bond Street. This post has been updated to include additional information about the know-your-rights training. By Emily Witt.
More: Sex Workers Back Craigslist. The Daily The best of The New Yorkerevery day, in your in-box, plus occasional alerts when we publish major stories.
e-mail address. Under Review.
The Science of the Psychedelic Renaissance. ZIP: 12601