Whore Next Door: Sex Workers on the March

In spite of its feminist leanings, the Women's March holds sex work at arm's length

Signs for the Women’s March, Brooklyn, New York. (Photo Courtesy of Lorelei Lee.)

I waited way too long to buy my plane ticket to the East Coast for the Women’s March on Washington.

Scrambling over my laptop late into the night, I had to split the sum onto two different credit cards in order to cover the cost of the one-way ticket to New York City, figuring I’d deal with the return airfare later. I didn’t care how much it cost: Nothing would keep me from marching to stand up and speak out against the hate, misogyny, and racism of the incoming administration and our nation.

My plan is to arrive in New Jersey just before midnight, and by the next morning at 5 a.m, be on a bus headed south to Washington, D.C., to join hundreds of thousands of women and allies in protesting the inauguration of Donald Trump the day before. I’m going with a small, but fierce contingent of current and former Bay Area sex workers, including podcaster-author Tina Horn and screenwriter Lorelei Lee, both of whom now reside in Brooklyn.

While most of our peers will be in Las Vegas at the the Adult Video News Awards — porn’s version of the Oscars — rocking evening gowns, signing autographs, and making business deals, we’ll be braving January on the East Coast, at what is bound to be a volatile, historic event. Similar events will take place across the country, including in San Francisco, Oakland, downtown Los Angeles — and also Las Vegas, where adult industry professionals are making plans to demonstrate in solidarity.

It’s a big year for San Francisco performer-producer Mona Wales, whose directorial debut, Real Fucking Girls, just won the Xbiz award for Best Trans Release, and which is expected to sweep the rest of awards season. But instead of the red carpet, she’s headed to D.C. to march, too.

“I’m going to get off the internet, stop scaring myself, get out of my bedroom — where I spent two weeks crying — and engage with the people that inspire me,” she said.

(Siouxsie Q)
(Siouxsie Q)

Last week, the Women’s March released a four-page document, outlining an uncompromisingly social justice-focused platform. It included 10 words that brought me to tears: “We stand in solidarity with the sex workers’ rights movements.”

Despite the nightmare of the incoming administration, the fact that sex workers’ rights are now officially included as a part of a feminist platform feels like a sliver of light. We officially belong.

The Women’s March takes a strong stance on issues of police brutality, mass incarceration, and sex work, which gives me hope that the resistance has a fighting chance.

“Our liberation is bound in each other’s” is the resounding theme. After years of a particular expression of feminism that ignores women’s intersecting identities, this is a document that recognizes that until all of us are free, none of us will be.

“This is the first time I have ever seen a major feminist organization unequivocally affirm that sex work is work, and that everyone deserves safe working conditions,” said Lee, who organized a group of sex workers headed from New York to D.C. on Friday. “When I read this … I just started crying with gratitude right there in front of the Dunkin’ Donuts.”

There was a brief controversy earlier this week, when organizers removed the sentence in the march’s platform that declared solidarity with the sex workers’ rights movement. But after swift and resounding backlash from leaders like Janet Mock and Melissa Gira Grant, the line was replaced without comment or explanation. Another sentence, reading “We recognize that exploitation for sex and labor in all forms is a violation of human rights,” was added, following it.

“Until our work is understood as work, we have no hope of attaining the labor protections that have the potential to prevent sexual exploitation,” Lee told me during the uncertain hours when the language was pulled altogether. We wondered if this meant we were uninvited to Washington once again.

Wales and others have begun referring to this new era as a “post-truth world,” and that may be so. But if there is one thing I know to be true, it’s that solidarity between sex workers is magic. And if we can harness it, maybe we can get out of this alive.

The only way to get to the top of Mount Doom and destroy the ring of power is with a friend by your side. I can’t wait to stand in the freezing January air, clutching the hands of the hos that I love, and lifting our voices in protest to show the world that we, too, are finally a part of “We the People.”

Despite the nightmare of the incoming administration, and the ambivalence the Women’s March organizers seem to have about our inclusion, the fact that sex workers’ rights are now a part of a mainstream feminist platform feels like a sliver of light in all this darkness. Whether the world likes it or not, we now officially belong.

Siouxsie Q has been writing “The Whore Next Door” since 2014.

View Comments