Ever since I started Stripped by SIA, my podcast on destigmatizing sex work, two years ago, its effect has really put me in an interesting place. It’s enabled me to reach people from across the globe, connect with a large amount of sex workers, and be exposed to corners of the industry that I didn’t even know existed! It has been an incredible experience, nonetheless, to be given the opportunity to speak on a platform and to be able to share sex workers’ stories from their point of view, their valued perspective and tell the world of their lived experiences in a beautiful and raw state.
A couple common questions that gets asked often is “How can I help?” and “What can we do to support the sex worker community?”. They’re really great questions. I feel that in light of a slew of social justice issues like George Floyd, the unearthing of countless bodies of residential school children, the increase in Asian hate crimes and the Atlanta shootings on massage parlour women, the world has been shaken and literally “woke” to the recent tragedies that are occurring in the world. Our youth, especially, are attuned to incomprehensible acts of violence and injustice. They simply do not want to tolerate this type of behaviour any longer so much so that people are starting to take notice. They’re making waves for change. And one of those pillars is within the sex work community.
No matter where you go or what country you visit, sex work is generally outlawed, stigmatized and shamed by society. Sex workers are a marginalized group.
Our work is seen as illegitimate, made a mockery by comedians and others who are not in the business. Sex work is seen, albeit hilariously, as an “easy” way to make money. It is not seen as a respectable profession, one that “you would never wish your daughter would ever do” (as said to me by a client!), and one that is generally unstable.
Our community is made up from people from all walks of life – all genders, all sexualities, all ethnicities, different socioeconomic backgrounds, varying degrees of education and work experience, single mothers, fathers… Some have chosen this profession due to its flexibility, sometimes out of pure monetary motivation, a way to save up to move out a small town, to leave an abusive situation, or perhaps maybe it was never a choice at all. Regardless of how we’ve gotten here, we are connected by the work we do, whether or not people support the idea or not.
Despite our differences and similarities, what I can say is that we need all of the support, resources and help we can get. If you want to get involved, there are many opportunities that you can take advantage of, even at an individual or grassroots level.
Here are a few things to think about if you want to stimulate change or help support the sex worker community:
• Tip them!
Perhaps one of your favourite dancers is coming to a club near you. Let them sit with you. Tip their for their time. Tip their for their stage shows. Get a private dance from them. Money does go a long way (and that is literaly our job!) and the worker can do what they please with their income. Can’t see them live? Tip them via PayPal, Venmo or another payment processor. There’s always a way.
• Subscribe to their fan page.
Do you ever wonder why most sex workers don’t answer their DMs? It’s because we get a LOT of them – it’s overwhelming! Sex workers appreciate being paid for our time, our consultation and our emotional energy that is
spent having to educate folks. Subscribe to their fan page where you can have access to them and message them. Trust me, they’ll really appreciate it and you’ll be able to develop a better connection with them (at least for some smaller Creators!).
• Gift them.
Some sex workers prefer cold, hard cash over gifts and other “Splenda”- like payment agreements but gifts are always a nice touch, especially if it was extra! I’ve come to so many dates in the past where the clients provide a little extra and the gesture is always welcomed. Amazon Wishlists are also great areas where you can see
and get to know your provider in what they like – and honestly, sometimes the gifts on there are just practical ones!
• Donate items to your local sex worker-friendly shelter.
Shelters and drop-in services are always looking for more items that workers can use. As we dive deeper into winter, now is a great time to take a look at your pre-loved clothing and shoes and donate them. Non-profit organizations will often post what they are needing for that specific season or time of the year so be sure to read their guidelines carefully before donating anything.
• Write to your local Member of Parliament (MP) or equivalent.
Your local MP is responsible for their riding, an electoral district which they represent. Bring topics like Bill C-36 to the table or any other laws that prohibit sex workers from exercising their bodily autonomy and the right to choose what kind of work that they’d like to participate in. In the states, SESTA-FOSTA continues to criminalize sex workers, pushing their work deeper underground and into unsafe and sometimes riskier situations.
Normalize talking about sex work and its profession. Protect its workers by defending them in conversation on social media, news articles and even amongst your coworkers and peers. Knowledge is power.
• Seek out proper resources and listen to sex workers’ lived experiences and accounts.
For starters, seek out podcasts like Stripped by SIA, Discord groups and subreddits, literary journals and scholarly articles and websites such as these (and this amazing website!) to further educate yourself and your peers about sex work. Question the media, movies and TV shows that continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes,
discrimination and the stigmatization of sex workers. Be a critical thinker.
• Donate to sex worker non-profit organizations.
Check your local area for organizations that support sex workers. Donate to these organizations as the money will typically go to programs that require funding, operational costs, and will help sex workers in need. Funding goes a long way in putting food on the table, providing a warm place to stay, helping sex workers get back on their foot, find stable housing, and protect them from predatory folks. It provides a safe space for many who are also part of other minorities and marginalized groups like our peers from the LGBTQIA2S+ communities, racialized communities, migrant workers and those fleeing domestic abuse situations.
Some of my favourite non-profits are listed below:
o WISH Drop-In Centre https://wish-vancouver.net
o PACE Society https://www.pace-society.org/about-us/mission-history/
o The Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform http://sexworklawreform.com
o Butterfly: Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network
o PEERS Victoria Resource Society https://www.safersexwork.ca
o Maggies https://www.maggiesto.org
o National Ugly Mugs (NUM) https://nationaluglymugs.org
o New Zealand Prostitutes Collective https://www.nzpc.org.nz
o Berlin Strippers Collective https://berlinstripperscollective.com
o Adult Performance Artists Guild https://apagunion.com
Steph Sia is a stripper, digital content creator and pole dance instructor based in Vancouver,
Canada. She is the host of the sex worker podcast, Stripped by SIA, that shares the stories of the
lived experiences of sex workers with an aim to destigmatize the sex industry. She always
enjoys a good bowl of noodles.