Love & Sex Magazine

Being Heard

By Maggiemcneill @Maggie_McNeill

We will strive to listen in new ways to the voices of quiet anguish, to voices that speak without words, the voices of the heart, to the injured voices, and the anxious voices, and the voices that have despaired of being heard.  -  Richard M. Nixon

Sex worker rights activism can be extraordinarily frustrating, especially in the midst of the current moral panic.  Sometimes it feels as though the majority of American activists think of this as some sort of game or intellectual exercise, a species of feminist or Marxist navel-gazing; while sex workers in other countries (especially those in the developing world) mobilize to fight bad laws and “trafficking” disinformation, those in the US seem largely content to talk about it (to each other) or to blather nonsense about “patriarchy” and “capitalism”.  And even when we do speak out, it seems as though we’re largely unheard no matter how loudly we shout.  But in the past year that seems to be changing; the protests at the International AIDS Conference last July made the national news, and decriminalization has at last entered the public discourse.

boycott Salvation ArmyA lot of this has been enabled by social media, which allows widely-separated and isolated voices to sound together in virtual protest; angry hookers on Twitter got an insulting video show cancelled in a single afternoon, and we recently attacked an old and powerful foe:  the Salvation Army, one of the most well-funded and implacable proponents of “sex trafficking” mythology.  The Salvationists are not content to paint only whores as the passive slaves of invisible, demonic “pimps”; like many trafficking fetishists they claim that all sex work, including stripping and porn acting, is “trafficking”.  This time, however, their hubris led them to bite off a bit more than they could chew:

A new documentary project…has drawn criticism from sex workers and…advocates for allegedly filming women employed in those trades without their consent.  Freelance journalist Melissa Gira Grant reported Tuesday that the film, Hard Corps, is being produced by, an online network funded by the Salvation Army, and purports to link pornography, exotic dancing and other types of sex work to other forms of human trafficking.  The page also features a video statement by Salvation Army “Territorial Commander” Jim Knaggs, who calls sex work “nothing less than slavery”…The project is currently seeking funding through the online platform Kickstarter, which Gira Grant reported is “looking into” the matter, according to co-founder Yancey Strickler.  The site’s regulations do not permit projects raising money for charitable purposes, but donors have reported seeing the Salvation Army listed as the recipient of their pledges…Hard Corps has raised just over $8,000 of the creative team’s stated goal of $100,000 in funding…

In the trailer, director Guy Noland…shows off a camera hidden on a pair of eyeglasses.  The trailer also appears to show sex workers without having their faces blurred…leading to accusations online that Noland and his team were endangering the workers’ lives by exposing their identities.  Also, while the project’s Kickstarter page lists interviews with various porn stars, at least one of them, Nina Hartley, said on TwitterHard Corps…that she “did not know” that her interview would be used for this kind of film…

Melissa later shared Kickstarter’s response, stating that they would not remove the project because it had not violated any of their guidelines.  Even so, it’s highly unlikely the documentary will be made through contributions; as Frankie Mullin observed in her Huffington Post article on the subject,

Hard Corps has until August 19th to raise $100,000.  So far it has just over $8,000.  That the project will fail seems pretty much assured; even those who don’t balk at its judgemental, repressive tone are likely to be put off by the amateurish wording on the Kickstarter page.  Were it not so terrifying, the pitch for Hard Corps would be funny.  It’s badly written, nonsensical in places and uses bizarrely quaint terms such as…“flesh peddling”…

Mullin goes on to discuss the danger of exposing sex workers to whore stigma without their consent, using as an example the murder of Petite Jasmine; the worldwide protests spawned by that tragedy, organized in only a few days, are another instance of our growing ability to make ourselves heard.  That’s the real point of the Salvation Army pseudo-documentary affair:  that a bunch of anti-sex fanatics want to promote their beloved 125-year-old myth of helpless victims at the mercy of evil perverts is not news, but the fact that it took only a few hours for sex workers’ protests against the lies to spawn two sympathetic articles on major websites most definitely is.

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