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English 212

2002 Third Paper

On Serendip

praxis field site language


Thinking Sex

Praxis Field Site Language

Redlight Project is an organization targeted at women sex workers in Philadelphia. The problem we see is there are many organizations that indirectly and directly address sex work, but their mission is exclusively to treat sex work as a disease in need of a cure. Some organizations will only work with women who are willing to work towards abandoning drugs and/or sex work. Redlight Project sees sex work as the symptom of something greater: poverty, drugs, and gender power relations. Despite our emphasis on the causes of sex work, we are not looking to eradicate these causes but to give sex workers a means to find resources that will help them meet their needs. Presently we are assuming their needs include safety, mental and physical health care, and legal assistance.
Currently the project is in its infancy so there is much research for us to do before we can address the subjects of the program directly. We are putting together some basic information pamphlets to disseminate in places where sex workers may be, such as strip clubs. The first round of pamphlets will be on basic disease and pregnancy prevention. They will also include general signs of STIs and STDs as well as contact information of where to go to receive treatment/counseling. We are not going make up pregnancy options pamphlets, instead we will provide the phone numbers of services that can provide counseling, such as CHOICE, and places that will help out with prenatal care. These pamphlets will provide us an in to start talking with people in the sex industry and figuring out what their needs are beyond the needs aforementioned.
The challenge for this part of the project is going to be finding sex workers in less obvious places. Street sex workers and women exchanging sex for other commodities, such as drugs, will be more difficult to find for a two reasons: there are no central locations where we see women walking the streets looking for business in Philadelphia and many of these women will not self identify as sex workers, so we cannot treat them like they are sex workers. And once we are able to find women doing more covert kinds of sex work, we are going to have to be very careful creating pamphlets that will appeal to the needs of someone doing sex work without obviously saying or implying that they are targeted at sex workers. When dealing with these women we will act as though we are doing a sex education street outreach and give them supplies such as pamphlets, condoms, and non alcoholic moist towelettes. In addition to the supplies and sex specific information we will give them information sex workers ought to have access to such as self defense techniques and ways they can take control of sexual situations in ways similar to how sex workers would have to deal with situations, but framed in a manner that appeals to women who are in the sex industry but are not doing escort-style prostitution. In doing this we need to avoid any rhetoric that would insinuate a client - worker relationship. We are hoping that by not treating these women as sex workers they will be comfortable with us and join us in dialogue about their needs.
These dialogues will lead us unto our larger project: a booklet of contact information of people, companies, and organizations that can help sex workers meet the needs they indicate during conversation. For instance, the packet will include attorneys and places that will provide women's health care and addition to needs sex workers have expressed to us. This packet is going to be the trickiest part of the project because it involves tracking down people, organizations, and companies comfortable with lending their services/goods to sex workers. Doing this means framing sex work in a way that appeals to them. Our language here is critical. These individuals, organizations, and companies need to see sex work from a similar vantage point as our perspective. Right now we have not looked into what we will need to do to address this population, but we suspect that we will have to frame each proposal individually to appeal to them. At this point in the project we do not have any way to know what hurdles we will have to overcome or how we will deal with these issues. Presently we have all done some surface level research on all of these issues and we are working at compiling our first pamphlet this next week and should probably have the first round of pamphlets completed and ready for dissemination.
I have realized from our group meetings and our research that language is the crucial factor in determining the success of the Redlight Project. If we do not adequately present our materials in a way that appeals to street sex workers, we will not go very far with this project. Women working in strip clubs are more likely to be comfortable with their niche in the sex industry because it encompasses their social and labor related interactions. Because they work in a place saturated with sex much of their conversation inevitably will be about sex work. These women are still a large part of our target audience because they may not have access to material we are distributing, but because they are in this organized sex industry they are going to know more than women who are individually walking the streets looking for clients.

Sex Ed Curriculum

I want to see Redlight Project move in a direction that makes sex workers in Philadelphia feel comfortable with expressing their experiences with at least other women in the sex industry. Ideally these women, especially those working in the streets, could have some type of social dialogue that they feel comfortable expressing themselves in. I want these women to talk and interact with one another and treat each other and our organization's materials as resources they can freely use. I hope these women will be able to talk with one another about bad experiences they may have had so others can know what situations to avoid and how they can reconcile negative situations.
Since I think it is important for them to have social interactions about their industry I see a sex ed curriculum for these women to involve a classroom setting or kind of "sex workers training camp" that will provide the setting for a discourse to develop between sex workers in the Philadelphia area. I do not know how realistic this setting is, given a couple of factors. Firstly, WAVE, an organization that deals with violence, has attempted to have self-defense training classes for sex workers, but did not have much success with participation. Additionally, most of these women are involved in the sex industry because of money or the need to support drug habits. These women do not have the time to come out even for an afternoon for a formal sex education, so most of our sex education is going to be through these pamphlets. However, I feel I have already said as much about these pamphlets as I can give the present stage of the organization. I do not know what kind of sex education curriculum I will develop for the final project. It could be a formal classroom setting or it could be a curriculum based solely on our handouts and street and club interactions with sex workers. Because we have to deal with the pamphlets as a sex education curriculum through the project, I think it would be more valuable to form my sex education curriculum, as a potential classroom setting with specific plans and instruction, though it's feasibility is questionable.
The sex industry is an illicit entity not easily penetrated from the inside, so we need someone to bridge the gap between Redlight Project and sex workers. The curriculum will be designed by myself, because I now have enough knowledge about the sex industry that I can direct and anticipate what sex workers need to know that they may not already have access to, but I want women who have real experiences and understand where the students are coming from to facilitate a classroom. Our creation of a trust between Redlight Project and sex workers it is imperative and any sex curriculum for sex workers our not be taught by someone like me, a person very far from experienced in the sex industry.
That facilitator will be a woman or women who will run the classroom with a member of Redlight Project, who knows technical things, such as health care and legal issues present to provide that kind of information. This Redlight Project person will participate with the women involved in the "training camp." She will participate in the activities as well as provide resources and information to the class. She will make friends and develop social ties with these women so the sex workers involved will feel comfortable sharing with her and accepting her advice. The idea is people learn more and pay attention more in comfortable social atmospheres and the more the person with Redlight Project and sex workers know each other, the more valuable their interactions will be.
The class will begin by establishing interactions between the women the classes with some kind of hands on activity that places them and groups of four to six people and forces them to talk with others. This will be the first of many other group activities, but with different groups of people each time. Each main topic will have one or more activities of this nature.
The topics Redlight Project has developed currently are physical safety, safe sex tips, mental health, and legal rights. The order of these topics is important, because the women will get more comfortable with each other as the day progresses and I think we should save the most personal topic for the end of the session. Right now it is impossible to tell which issue is going to be most personal for these women, because we have not done any field research.
1. Legal Issues
The legal tips section of the class will inform women of their legal rights when being questioned by police, arrested, or awaiting trial for issues related or unrelated to sex work. We will give each of them an ALCU rights card to carry with them. It is going to be hard to get and keep their interests in this section because it can be technical not very engaging and will not facilitate as much interaction between the women. So much of it is memorization that we need to do some activity that deals with mini theatre of what to do when dealing with legal authority so the retain more if the information and talk about the different situations that can arise. After some discussion and the acting I would like to be able to open up the discussion to personal experiences so the women can get a grasp of how the sex industry is in Philadelphia beyond their own experiences and have an idea of what to expect for authorities.
2. Safety
The safety section will involved a self-defense lesson from a martial artist who knows very well how to use a small body to overpower a larger body and can train the women to be aware of their surroundings. There will be a discussion section on how to avoid dangerous situations and control them when they do occur s well as using physical ability to escape potentially threatening situations.
The "don'ts" of sex works. Including but not limited to:
*Not wearing necklaces or scarves that can be used to choke
*Take the money first
*Make sure someone sees you leave with a client and have person record l license plate numbers
*Always face the door when you are with a client
3. Mental Health
I do not want to spend much time on mental health, because I do not want it to turn into at therapy session. I would like to use a short period of time to pass out phone numbers of crisis lines and therapists. I want to encourage them to have a confidant or group they can trust who knows them well and can if there is an arrest or something happens to any of these women, there will be a reliable source of knowledge of her life.
4. Safe Sex Tips
This section first will deal with contraception and STI and STD prevention; by breaking down what contraceptive prevent pregnancy or STIs/STDs and what can prevent both. We will pass out information on the effects and symptoms different STIs/STDs in general terms. For example many STIs have similar symptoms so we will tell them which systems they should look for and see a physician. We will not focus as much on pregnancy, but will pass out information on options counseling, abortion providers and groups that will help fund abortions, and where to find prenatal care.
After the infection and pregnancy information session we pass out bags to each of the women with different kids of guards, condoms, lubricants, and sanitizers that they should carry with them and have the women share their advice on essentials to bring on the job.
Once they have the supplies, we will open the discussion to tricks of the trade. We will facilitate a conversation about ways to keep you protected. Topics will include how to put a condom on a man without him knowing and being able to work during menstruation.
5. Sex Workers' Choice
After we have gone through the course, if people are still interested it would help wrap things up well and cover any information we have missed if the attendees have some time to talk about things that were not brought up. Hopefully by giving them some ownership over the course, they will be able to really get at the sex workers' perspective.


ALCU Pennsylvania

Society for Human Sexuality

Having a Healthy Pregnancy

Guide to Safer Sex

Guide to Safer Sex

Perspectives in Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Condoms for Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases

An Introduction to STDs


The ABC's of Hepatitis


Oil Eats Rubbers

Lesbian Safer Sex

Oral Sex

The Role of Condoms in Preventing HIV Infection and Other STDs

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