Okay, so, since I set up my overview yesterday, I guess it’s time to get to the nitty. So, I’m going to start with harm reduction, which, yes, I advocate. Here is where I am coming from with the term, because it is not a solid thing that everyone sees the same way. So, here we go, this is my manifesto, I suppose you could say…
When taking on a harm reduction stance, one:
-Accepts, for better and for worse, that the sex industry is part of our world and chooses to work to minimize harmful effects rather than simply ignore or condemn them.
-Understands the sex industry as a complex, multifaceted thing encompasses a vast range of activities, and acknowledges that some aspects of the sex industry are clearly more dangerous than others, and those working in the sex industry may have vastly different needs.
-Calls for the non-judgmental, non-coercive provision of services and resources to people who are involved in the sex industry and bases those provisions around the wants and needs of the sex worker/ prostituted person.
-Ensures that sex workers/ prostituted people and those with a history in the sex industry have a real voice in the creation of programs and policies designed to serve them.
-Affirms sex workers/prostituted people themselves as the primary agents in setting the course of their lives, and seeks to empower them to share information, support strategies and resources which meet their actual needs.
-Recognizes that the realities of poverty, class, racism, social isolation, past trauma, education, abuse and other social inequalities affect both people’s vulnerability to harm and capacity for independent operation.
-Does not attempt to minimize or ignore the real potential harm and danger associated with the sex industry.
-Does not attempt to minimize or ignore the choices and agency of those involved with the sex industry.
And there you have it, because simply put, I do not think the sex industry is going anywhere anytime soon, so thusly, I (personally, me here) think that focus should be placed on the people in it…and there is much that needs to be done and can be done from a harm reduction perspective. It is simple fact that prostitutes working in places like Chile have difficulty gaining access to something as simple and potentially life saving as a condom, and it is a simple truth that many of them will go ahead and work with or without them because they have to, so I figure it’s best to try and see that they have them. For me there is no moral or feminist thing here, it’s a matter health and welfare…I’d rather have that prostitute working with a condom than dead, or spreading potentially deadly diseases, and that is exactly what can happen when such basic things are denied. Yes, one should then go further and see that such people have access to other resources, including towards working to transition out of prostitution if that is their desire, but basic needs must be met first. And yes, it goes way beyond that, in every level of the sex industry.
I had the opportunity to attend a sex workers conference in Chicago this summer, one which had a wildly vast assortment of sex workers at it, from all aspects and levels of sex work, and two things became apparent immediately: we all have needs, and they are vastly different. The white, middle class professional domme working out of her home as a second job in Ohio is going to have vastly different needs and faces vastly different harms than the transwoman of color who works a stroll in Baltimore (and yes, I met several people that fit both those kinds of descriptors there). Male sex workers have different needs than female or trans sex workers. But, since we’re all…you know…working? Needs need to be met. And something I had always believed was proven as solid fact for me there…in the here and now, while there is sex industry, treating it or the people in it in a monolithic fashion does nothing to help anyone. Harsh? Perhaps. True, yes, I do think so. And I was not alone in that observation. The needs of a porn performer are not the needs of an erotic masseur are not the needs of an independent escort are not the needs of a street based worker are not the needs of a stripper are not the needs of trafficked person forced into an illegal brothel. But all those people are working, and it’s my stance that we should make that work as safe as possible, while helping those who wish to transition out to do so, hence, I embrace the harm reduction mode, because frankly, it seems to be what sex workers…and no, not just me…want in place. And yes, most harm reductionists seem to support decriminalization, but we’ll go there later today or tomorrow… ‘cause that’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax and controversy, isn’t it?
Is harm reduction 100% effective? No, but nothing is. However, people involved in the sex industry are people, with different needs and concerns, pretty much like everybody else, and (to me) the harm reduction mode seems to be the one, perhaps the only one, that most recognizes that, especially in a time in the world where the elimination of the sex industry seems about as likely as the Stanley Cup being held in Hell. Also, err, ahem…with harm reduction, while some might see it a bit like putting a band-aid on a shotgun wound, there is, at least…
At the end of the week, I shall be posting a list of Sex Workers Rights groups, many of which hold harm reduction stances, and why yes, I do encourage you to check them out.
And now, as I am wont to say, fin and fire at will.
- The Sex Workers Rights Thing: An Overview by Ren August 18, 2008
- Sex Work Activism- Three: The Problem with Creating a Monolith by Ren August 22, 2008
- Sex Work Activism: Two- Decriminalization by Ren August 20, 2008
- “Balka: Women, HIV, and Drug Use in Ukraine” short harm reduction documentary by Clarisse Thorn October 20, 2011
- Why the Sex Positive Movement is Bad for Sex Workers by Jill April 20, 2012