5 must-read resources that'll change the way you think about sex work

If you're interested in human rights, these should come in handy.

Interested in learning more about the fight for decriminalizing sex work but don't know where to start?

I've been there. For the years I've been writing about social and cultural issues, one topic consistently flew under my radar: sex work. As I'm neither a sex worker nor part of the industry's clientele, I was pretty ignorant on the subject as a whole.

In the past year or so, I've become more interested in the topic from a human rights point of view. With the help of some informed friends, I wanted to share five of my favorite resources on the topic below.


1. The Red Umbrella Project's website and journal

The Red Umbrella Project (RedUP) is a Brooklyn-based organization dedicated to the welfare of sex workers. From their website:

"We strive to build the capacities of people in the sex trades both as individuals and as a community, so that we can engage in debates about issues that affect us and make positive changes both on personal and political levels. Because of the stigma, discrimination, and violence our community faces there are major barriers to our participation in civic and political life. We create programming that supports the development of skills, confidence, and political analysis among our members so that they can better navigate social and economic justice issues."

RedUP's literary journal, "Prose & Lore," is a great read that features stories from the perspective of the workers themselves.

2. Melinda Chateauvert's anthology "Sex Workers Unite"

Chateauvert's "Sex Workers Unite" is an anthology covering the past 50 years of sex-work activism, focusing on how the fight for sex-workers' rights intersects with other movements (such as gay rights, civil rights, labor, and reproductive rights).


This book is worth reading if you're mostly interested in learning more about why it's important that we all fight for the rights of sex workers.

3. Sex Workers Outreach Project, an advocacy organization

At its core, the Sex Workers Outreach Project is an education-based advocacy organization aimed at putting an end to the stigma and violence sex workers face. Its website is a great place to stop by for some basic Sex Work 101 information.


How can you be a good ally to sex workers? SWOP has an entire page of info just for that.

4. Tits and Sass, a website known for keeping things real

When it comes to keeping up with current events that might affect the sex-worker community, Tits and Sass is an awesome site to check for information. While mainstream press has a tendency to sanitize or otherwise skew news about the sex-work industry, you'll find the whole story here.

For example, Tara Burns' feature on Alaska's case against Amber Batts is great reading you won't find anywhere else.

5. Melissa Gira Grant's book "Playing the Whore"

Melissa Gira Grant is one of the (if not the) world's premier journalists covering issues affecting sex workers. She's the author of the 2014 book "Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work," and her writing has appeared everywhere from The New York Times to The Guardian to The Atlantic.

Here she is giving a talk titled "The End of the American Red Light District" at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. It's lengthy but worth a watch for anyone interested in learning more about the history of sex work in America.

You can read an excerpt of "Playing the Whore" here.

The media doesn't often take into account the lived experiences of sex workers. As people. Let's change that.

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