My New Project- Developing Sex Worker Led Research
Just returned from a week at the Desiree Alliance conference in Vegas, where it was great to re-connect with old friends and make some new ones. Amazing to see how this movement has grown in just a few years and that there’s still sex workers motivated and dedicated to community organizing. For those that saw me at the conference, you most likely were handed a card about my new project, AIT Research, which has been about 2 years in the making and has finally come to fruition. This was originally a partnership between myself and a few activist friends who wanted to develop our own nationwide research survey on human trafficking in the sex trades. Since then, one of our original partners has dropped out of the project, but along with SWOP-Michigan’s Crysta Heart, we’ve created a platform to promote and develop sex worker led research that we hope will uncover some “truths” about our industry, as opposed to much of the biased research about the industry that comes from outsiders.
Our first AIT research project, The Erotic Labor Market Survey, or “ELMS” focuses on human trafficking in the various erotic labor/sex industries and was launched last week. With this survey, we hope to gain more accurate stats on how often trafficking occurs in the industry and whether or not workers, clients, and staff of industry establishments are properly educated on how to respond to trafficking situations when they are confronted with them. This project was our own direct response to the trafficking PSA that we created in 2012. One of the conversations that came out the the writing process of that video was that we create a survey for not just sex workers, but for clients and other industry personnel (staff at strip clubs/escort services/porn companies, etc.) on whether or not the can identify a trafficking victim and how they would respond if they did come across one. As we stated in that video, WE are the ones most likely to come into contact with individuals in coercive situations, yet because of the wall between us and most anti-trafficking organizations and efforts, there is little knowledge and education being done about what to do about it. Additionally, as we know many trafficking statistics are likely to be overinflated, but the only way we can get good accurate data of our own is to do our own research from inside the industry. We are working with the Social Science Research Center at DePaul university on this project who helped us re-write some of the language to get us approved by the Institutional Review Board there. For those not in academia, IRB’s monitor research projects involving human subjects to protect them from physical or psychological harm.
So this is why I’m hounding everyone to help us with this project…Take the Survey! Then tell your fellow co-workers, clients, and other industry friends. It’s for current or former workers or clients, but we ask that you keep responses to US-based experiences only. Yes, I know surveys are annoying, especially when you’re a sex worker being hounded by college students and academic types who want to “study” you, but we assure you that this is being done with the full participation and direction of sex workers, which we need more of. “Nothing about us, without us” is and will forever be our motto.
I’m hoping to create some banners for promoting the survey on other websites, so once we get some of those, I will post them up here.
The ELMS survey will stay open for a year, until July 2014. After that we will likely do a write-up and presentation on the results.