June 2nd is International Sex Workers Day
Today is International Whores Day. This is not to be confused with International Sex Workers Rights Day (March 3) which is more commonly celebrated in North America. International Sex Worker Day was established in 1975 following a protest staged by 100 prostitutes in Lyon, France. The women occupied a church to bring attention to their exploitative living conditions and brutality at the hands of police. After an 8 day sit-in, the police stormed and cleared the building. The action sparked a national movement that spread through Europe and then the rest of the globe. While not exactly fodder for backyard barbecues, the holiday is meant to bring awareness to a human rights issues. The right of people to express themselves sexually, and the right to work at a job of one’s choosing free from the arbitrary moral judgments of those in power. Sex workers are often subjected to violence that because of their professions, they have no recourse to prosecute. They are affected by housing discrimination, and lack of access to healthcare and other protections.
What’s a Sex Worker?
According to the 2006 Encyclopedia of Prostitution and Sex Work, “‘Sex work’ is a phrase created in the last 30 years to refer to sexual commerce of all kinds. Prostitution has varying definitions in different contexts. Some of these are based on the definition of prostitution in law, or what is illegal. Legal definitions change over time and place, leading to great confusion if one relies on one definition from the criminal code or one from the civil code, as they do not travel well. Despite the difficulty of terminology, prostitution as a sexual exchange for money or other valuables is the general definition of prostitution for this work. In that sense, the term ‘sex work’ is appropriate in its inclusivity.
‘Sex work’ was conceived as a non-stigmatizing term, without the taint of the words ‘whore’ and ‘prostitute.’ The point of the term was to convey the professionalism of the sex worker rather than her lack of worth as seen by much of society.”