Around election time last year, it became de rigueur to caricature Hyde Park as a haven of Bobo-ishness; a wealthy enclave replete with professional radicals, Esperanto courses, Wiccan temples, fair trade sex shops, and what have you. This portrait annoyed me to no end.
In a given week, I receive around fifteen invitations to goings-on of some educational or cultural import about the area . Fourteen of these will be wholly worthwhile and edifying, and I often find myself wishing there was more time in a week to attend such events.
But, oh, that fifteenth.
This week, the “fifteenth” invitation was
A conversation with Bill Ayers about education as activism and a panel featuring representatives from Sex Workers Outreach Project Chicago, People’s Law Office, Chicago New Sanctuary Coalition and South Chicago Art Center
A brief perusal of the fascinating Sex Workers Outreach Project Chicago website yielded some useful tips for decorum when conversing with ladies of the night. To wit:
1) Don’t Assume. Don’t assume you know why a person is in the sex industry. We’re not all trafficked or victims of abuse. Some people make a choice to enter this industry because they enjoy it, others may be struggling for money and have less of a choice.
2) Be Discreet and Respect Personal Boundaries. If you know a sex worker, it’s OK to engage in conversation in dialogue with them in private, but respect their privacy surrounding their work in public settings. Don’t ask personal questions such as “does your family know what you do?” If a sex worker is not “out” to their friends, family, or co-workers, it’s not your place to tell everyone what they do.
3) Don’t Judge. Know your own prejudices and realize that not everyone shares the same opinions as you. Whether you think sex work is a dangerous and exploitative profession or not is irrelevant compared to the actual experiences of the person who works in the industry. It’s not your place to pass judgment on how another person earns the money they need to survive.
4) Watch Your Language. Cracking jokes or using derogatory terms such as “hooker”, “whore”, “slut”, or “ho” is not acceptable. While some sex workers have “taken back” these words and use them among themselves, they are usually used to demean sex workers when spoken by outsiders.
5) Address Your Prejudices. If you have a deep bias or underlying fear that all sex workers are bad people and/or full of diseases, then perhaps these are issues within yourself that you need to address. In fact, the majority of sex workers practice safer sex than their peers and get tested regularly.
And my personal favorite:
6) Don’t Play Rescuer. Not all sex workers are trying to get out of the industry or in need of help. Ask them what they need, but not everyone is looking for “Captain Save-A-Ho” or the “Pretty Woman” ending.
I can only assume that SWOP would not have approved of Prime Minister Gladstone.
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