Published on December 13th, 2019 | by Marilyn Reles0
Queer Rock Band Copyslut Creates Video In Honor of The International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers
December is home to many impactful dates – whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah or even Boxing Day; we all experience moments of celebration, merriment, grief or longing this month. Regardless of our personal circumstance, December is an emotional ride riddled with self-reflection as we near the years end, and in this case, the decade. On December 17th, we honor the 16th annual International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers. It is a day observed by sex workers, friends, families and allies where we renew a commitment to solidarity and remember those we’ve lost. This day is also about stopping the violence we see against trans-women, women of color, drug users, and immigrants. The marginalization and victimization of all sex workers will not end without also fighting trans-phobia, racism, stigma, and xenophobia. Copyslut, led by Ray Zamora and ‘out’ sex worker Chatz of Love, honor the lives of sex workers who have died over the past year with their tribute video and elegant cover of Eartha Kitt’s famous holiday hit “Santa Baby”. Proceeds of their video and live recording will be donated to SWOP USA (Sex Workers Outreach Project), the organization who put in hours of labor, research, love and tears collecting and distributing the names of the deceased.
The video begins as a cozy celebration of friends and family gathered in the living room while Copyslut provides holiday tunes to a powerful pole dance of festive grace. The song leads to a reverent tone as their voices coalesce into one joined narrative, explaining the video’s intention and the importance of observation on December 17th. Their narration leads to a ritual, candles lit in remembrance of those deceased. They gather together, displaying names on the screen of those we’ve lost. Sadness grows with each name as we begin to understand the gravity of laws like FOSTA-SESTA and the hate-fueled discrimination sex workers face everyday.
FOSTA-SESTA is a law intended to curb sex trafficking, but instead has threatened the lives of sex workers worldwide by empowering abusive clients to exploit workers. Websites like Backpage and Craigs List allowed sex workers the opportunity to take their work off the street. Now, instead of working indoors and leaving exploitative situations, SESTA is putting people in positions where they face more violence and harassment as well as brutality by police. It puts them closer to the social stigma and discrimination that contributes to violence and indifference. Now, the International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers was originally founded in 2003. Dr Annie Sprinkle and SWOP understood that violent crimes against sex workers often go under-reported and unpunished. Sex work has become dehumanized in a dangerous way and these new laws have only worsened the situation. This is why it’s imperative we remember days like December 17th and we’re grateful to bands like Copyslut for bringing its importance the forefront.
Art by: Reiko Rasch
The silencing doesn’t stop with SESTA/FOSTA. These internet laws have contributed to an increased amount of shadow banning and the removal of sex positive accounts online. Algorithms make the decision between what content meets guidelines and what doesn’t; the result being misunderstood nuance as well as discriminatory shielding of viewers from educational resources. Copyslut is among many who have experienced account removal, blocked posts and content being taken down with little to no explanation. SH:24, an online account that promotes the importance of reproductive health quotes “Our posts have occasionally been flagged as violating “community guidelines” on both IG and Facebook. This is incredibly frustrating, particularly when our posts are educational – for example, a post promoting a queer sex ed guide for women who have sex with women was removed.” They say that it feels like Facebook is deliberately targeting and removing progressive or LGBTQ+ content. Dominatrix and Sex Worker Rights activist Mistress Blunt explains how shadow banning leads to increased violence: “Shadow banning is one of the ways that marginalized communities are denied access to technologies. Shadow banning has an effect of displacement, isolation, and heightened exposure to violence.”
December 17th is a day we come together as human beings to remember the ones we’ve lost. It’s not enough to raise awareness, but we must provide the education needed to end discrimination and the assault, battery, rape, and murder of sex workers. If you’re looking for a tool for sex workers to connect, defend themselves, and educate loved ones, Copyslut also writes and distributes their zine “Don’t Hate My Heels – A Confrontation With Whorephobia In Which The Whores Win”. All proceeds support sex worker-led organizations that offer direct services to their community.
Their tribute video is now available on YouTube with an audio release of “Santa Baby” becoming available everywhere on Tuesday December 17th.