Richard Nixon's ruthless special counsel, Charles Colson, had a sign above his desk with the mantra, "If you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow." Activist prostitute and videomaker Carol Leigh (aka Scarlot Harlot) has a far gentler approach to the same region and a more enlightened way of galvanizing people to action: the biannual San Francisco Sex Worker Film and Video Festival.
The three-day marathon ranges from sarcastic to sordid, from tender to titillating. The deadpan documentary Angel's Ladies looks at the lives of prostitutes employed by a legal Nevada brothel, while the grim Czech feature Mandragora is set in the unforgiving world of teenage male hustlers. Our Bodies, Our Minds aims to reconcile sex workers and traditional feminists -- no mean feat -- by erasing misperceptions and prejudices. The festival's two-pronged political strategy -- to organize sex workers while educating their customers and the broader community about working conditions -- still leaves plenty of room for entertainment, erotica, and humor. Bad Girl is a smart, sexy satire about a woman who takes a job as an exotic dancer to fund her boyfriend's indie movie. The Sex Worker Sinema Awards, a feast of X-rated clips hosted by Ms. Harlot and Annie Sprinkle, is a guaranteed hootfest. The raunchiest and most raucous event, however, is bound to be the burlesque performance extravaganza at Jezebel's Joint.
A panel discussion on the representation of sex workers in the media will be held Sunday, May 27, at 2 p.m. at New College, 777 Valencia (at 19th Street)
The closing night party and performance is Sunday at 8 p.m. at Jezebel's Joint, 510 Larkin (at Turk)
Tickets are $7-8
Sinema Awards $15
Special passes $25-50
The San Francisco Sex Worker Film and Video Festival will no doubt draw plenty of mainstream folks who will come for sleazy laughs, but they will leave a whole lot more informed about the status of sex workers in America.