As a local Chapter of SWOP-USA, our values are reflective of international sex workers rights organizations. We are concerned for the welfare and human rights of all sex workers, and actively strive to expand our awareness of various sex worker circumstances and cultures, so as to best serve and mobilize our collective sex worker communities.
Sex Workers Outreach Project-USA is a national grassroots social justice network dedicated to the fundamental human rights of sex workers and their communities, focusing on ending violence and stigma through education, community building, and advocacy.
SWOP is committed to the safety, autonomy, and human rights of people in the sex trade, and stands in solidarity with the many social justice movements intersectional to our own, including but not limited to Black Lives Matter, disability rights, drug and immigration reform, gender equality and the LGBTQ movement, and the rights of the working class.
Dignity and Respect
Sex workers are human beings who deserve the same dignity and respect given to non-sex working people. Society has historically used respectability politics (ideas of what is and isn’t “socially acceptable”) as an excuse for tolerating the abuse, murder, and criminalization of sex workers. We firmly reject the idea that a person is undeserving of respect because of their involvement in the sex trade, and we dedicate ourselves to ending discrimination against sex workers in all of its many forms. We recognize that no one story represents sex work, and we honor the vast variety of experiences that people in our communities have lived. We validate all forms of sex work as equal, and actively work to dismantle whorearchy (the idea that certain types of sex work are more or less dignified than others) in the public, as well as within our sex worker and activist communities.
The Sex Workers Outreach Project strives to create conscious sex worker communities, valuing anti-racism and anti-oppression education as a means of fostering safe environments for all. We rely on strong communities to keep us safe, share information on harm reduction, and fund and organize peer support. When we stand together as a community, we are better able to organize and advocate for our human rights and protections. Our communities are strengthened by honoring diversity among our members, and each individual’s right to self-representation.
We recognize that people in our communities come from a vast array of backgrounds, and that we are all at different stages of understanding the intersectional issues that relate to our movement. We strive to provide educational materials to our members on overlapping social justice issues, and to promote a culture of self-awareness and learning. We assume the best intentions of peers and seek to both offer and accept constructive criticism as a gift for growth. We actively work to identify, acknowledge, and dismantle forms of oppression that manifest within our groups, our organization, and ourselves, and hold ourselves accountable to make good on incidents where we fall short.
Our bodies are our own. As members of SWOP, we demand that individuals retain the exclusive right to determine how they use their own bodies under all circumstances, including in making occupational, health, lifestyle, sexual and reproductive choices. We support harm reduction principles, believing that each individual is an expert on their own life, and thus in the best position to determine their needs, and how to get those needs met. We strive to provide information and materials to help people make informed choices and access the resources they need to stay safe. We condemn the structural oppression that seeks to take away our power and control through violence, labor exploitation, and economic marginalization. We acknowledge that methods of survival, self care, and asserting autonomy differ from culture to culture and person to person, and value non-judgement as a means of offering support to all people.
Sex Work is Work
We stand by sex work as a form of emotional and physical labor that people of all backgrounds undertake as a means of supporting themselves and people who depend on them, and as a means of surviving. We maintain that consent and the upholding of individual rights are key differentiators between sex work and sexual assault, and we reject the notion that sex work is inherently linked to violence. We maintain that addressing root issues of poverty, racial and gender discrimination, drug use, and immigration reform (to name a few) will give people who do not want to engage in sex work more income options and reduce sex worker vulnerability to violence and exploitation.
The presence of sex workers in social movements, the visibility of sex workers in communities of all kinds, and societal awareness of sex worker rights as fundamental to human rights in no way perpetuate violence, sexual assault, slavery and trafficking in persons. We believe that when sex work is decriminalized, and when sex workers do not suffer from stigma and discrimination, issues of abuse in the sex trade can be better identified, addressed and nullified.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF SWOP:
Community is at the core of SWOP and has been since its inception in 2003, when Bay Area sex workers rallied around school teacher and fellow sex worker Shannon Williams,protesting her arrest and mistreatment.
In 2004, SWOP co-founders Stacey Swimme and Robyn Few teamed up with Dr. Annie Sprinkle to honor the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle, designating December 17th as International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. SWOP-USA continues to honor Dec 17th by hosting a multilingual website with advocate toolkits, global event details, and annual list of names, as well as providing event funding to local SWOP chapters and related groups.
Since it’s founding in the Bay Area, SWOP has grown into a national network of regional chapters and local activists. This network works together to address stigma and criminalization through peer support, community outreach, media engagement, allied collaborations, and direct action. As the issue of sex worker rights emerges into mainstream consciousness, SWOP will be here to serve as a vehicle to bolster the work and voices of social justice advocates across the nation.