Sex Workers Outreach Project Chicago [SWOP-Chicago] is an organization dedicated to improving the lives of current and former sex workers in the Chicago area, on and off of the job. SWOP-Chicago is composed of current and former sex workers — including prostitutes, professional dominants, porn actors, strippers, and sex educators — and our academic and activist allies, working together to ensure that sex workers are allowed healthy and fulfilling labor and lives. We represent a diverse range of experience and background, and have no tolerance for discrimination based on race, gender, or class within our ranks. As we consider every human life of equal worth, we work to eliminate discriminatory hierarchies evident among sex workers as well as within society at large.
We support the right of all individuals to freely choose their work. We oppose trafficking and coercive labor of all kinds, from forced prostitution to unpaid migrant agricultural work. Coercive and forced labor are correlated with discriminatory immigration policy, the international dearth of living-wage jobs, the subjugation of women, and the criminalization which forces the sex industry underground. When the work we perform is criminalized and stigmatized, we are denied the dignity and safety that are the inherent rights of every human. We stand with our allies in the labor, feminist, queer, and civil rights movements in demanding an equal society, in which no person or group of people is demeaned, demoralized, victimized, or otherwise harmed by other individuals or the state. No sex worker shall be denied services. However, SWOP-Chicago will stay within our subject matter expertise and provide referral services to individuals outside of that expertise.
We address the issues that profoundly affect our work: access to supportive community and health care, violence at the hands of police, clients, and employers, and cultural stigma surrounding the sex industry. We employ a broad range of tactics and strategies, and work closely with other national and international sex workers’ rights organizations. SWOP-Chicago’s work is divided between the following:
1. Outreach — providing access to a supportive network of resources and workers;
2. Education — bringing the voices of sex workers to academics, activists, and the general public;
3. Advocacy — changing the legal system that puts us at risk for violence and coercion.
Physical and psychological violence against sex workers is tolerated — and often encouraged — in a society which considers their lives criminal and immoral. Workers have no legal recourse when they are raped, abused, or placed in unhealthy working conditions by clients or employers. When arrested, many have little access to legal counsel, and an arrest can harm an individual’s opportunity for future employment as well as their emotional, financial, and family life. Until deeply-rooted cultural stigmas against sex workers are removed, no sex worker can live and work in safety and freedom.