Sunday 2nd June marks International Whores Day. Bet you didn’t realise that was even a date, let alone a globally-recognised and celebrated one. But, indeed, the date sees sex workers across the world unite and campaign for their equal rights.
With the aim to promote those who wish to pursue a profession in stripping or exotic dancing in the UK, the East London Strippers Collective has come about. London is not only recognising the initiative but wants to challenge the negative connotations which are attached to strip club performers.
Where Did The Day Originate From?
In June 1975, a group of sex workers and those who supported them stormed and took over Église Saint-Nizier, a church in Lyon, as well as five other churches, to protest against the increasing number of arrests of sex workers on the street. They also challenged the harassment of these workers by police and the lack of support they had from the force in relation to crimes against them. Moreover, the inhuman working conditions in which they were forced to work. This inspired many people all over the world to take action on behalf of sex workers and those who enjoy professions such as strip dancing.
What Is The Fight Today?
According to Survivors Against SESTA, the day is for communities to come together to protest police and state violence, the end of ‘whorephobia’, stigma and shaming and the fight for all sex work to be decriminalised.
Each year, on June 2nd, sex workers and their communities dress in red and march through their cities worldwide. We all know about International Women’s Day but it’s time to spread the word about the other IWD: International Whore’s Day.
43 years after the original protest, sex workers are fighting the same battle for their internationally-recognised rights. Last year was particularly monumental, as the US government passed the SESTA/FOSTA law, which annulled access to clients, referral networks and payment for sex workers across the country. For those of you who don’t know, SESTA stands for Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act and FOSTA is the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act. Aimed to improve America’s sex trafficking laws, it is actually opposed by sex workers and sex trafficking victims as the bill does not differentiate between forced and consensual sex work.
Perhaps naïve but probably very common; very few people realise that there are some people who wish to continue with voluntary sex work. Whether that’s working in a strip club, filming pornography or being a prostitute, there’s definitely stigma and prejudices surrounding this topic. More importantly, it’s always related to women who wish to pursue this kind of lifestyle. Even girls who work as escorts or have a web cam undergo this taboo feeling.
Are those who support SESTA and FOSTA trying to help those they believe are being wronged? Or are they trying to take a voice and decision away from humans who deserve to have their right to choose?
How London Is Supporting
Popular bar and club Queen of Hoxton in Shoreditch will host a film screening of Leilah Weinraub’s documentary feature, Shakedown on Monday 3rd June. Performances by East London Strippers Collective and a DJ set by Ifeoluwa will also feature in between the documentary’s screening. Starting at 7pm and set to finish at midnight, tickets are only £15 and you can get involved and support the challenge of societal attitudes towards strip club activity here.
Everyone getting involved has a story to tell. SHAKEDOWN is an underground, illegal nightclub that voices the tale of LA’s black lesbian strip club scene. Owned and operated by women of colour, it is a sanctuary for LA’s lesbian subculture. Viewers will learn the context and relationships of key figures in this movement such as the ‘Queen’ of Shakedown, Jazmine and Mahogany, the legendary ‘mother’ of the group.
The curated programme of performances aims to unify all women, people of colour and non-binary/queer individuals. All profits from this event go to supporting the East London Strippers Collection and Ifeoluwa.
And why not devote a day to celebrating these working individuals? We are all human beings in a modern age and we should be able to act (and celebrate) however we want and without judgement. Smoking is not illegal and that is, arguably, a worse decision to make about your body than sex work—as long as you are practicing safely and not harming others. Smoking kills but (safe) sex doesn’t. Why is sex wouldn’t sex be deemed a viable profession when it is a skill or service that you are getting paid for? It doesn’t harm anyone.
On the other hand, there are many victims of sex trafficking who did not have a choice and whose voices were silenced as they were kidnapped and forced into a different life. That being said, it is not my place. It is not my place to judge other women, nor is it yours. Maybe you don’t support this initiative – that’s okay. But, especially in this day and age, there is so much intolerance and discrimination in the world that we should at least allow everyone to freedom to celebrate and be proud of who they are.