Sex workers and their allies promote hashtag #NotYourRescueProject

A researcher and writer known as the Naked Anthropologist, Laura Agustin, is a long-time critic of what she calls the "rescue industry".

In an interview with the Georgia Straight in 2011, she maintained that nongovernmental organizations trying to "save" women in the sex trade don't spend nearly enough attention on what these rescued souls will do after their income has been cut off.

Agustin pointed out at the time that prior to the rise of the European bourgeoisie, sex workers were not considered "victims".

And she has criticized those like New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof who've called for greater restrictions on the sale of sex.

Agustin's provocative argument hasn't attracted much attention in the mainstream media.

Today, sex workers and their allies decided to amplify this message over Twitter by using the hashtag #NotYourRescueProject.

It appears to have started here:


That came after self-described intersectional feminist and sex worker Pasta tweeted: "I feel like SWs are always being put into boxes by no-SWs in a way that flattens complexity."

Below, you can see how quickly it caught on.

A well-known dominatrix, Mistress Matisse, tweeted: "#notyourrescueproject because my career has taught me self-reliance, creativity, compassion, and how to have excellent personal boundaries."

Molli Desi Devadasi, who was one of the originators, sent out several messages, including this one: "NotYourRescueProject today I had sex with three men for 1 hr each and with that money I paid for one school for one month in my country."

Another of the originators, N'jaila Rhee, declared: "I reject your attempts to use my body as a woman of color for your tragedy porn. #notyourrescueproject"

Another named Kitty stated: "#notyourrescueproject Because, despite all my options, I choose to do what makes me the most happy, not what will make society happy."

El Feministo tweeted: "#NotYourRescueProject Because 'Rescue' too-often = 'Repatriation Without Consent' followed by 'Please Donate!' – in other words: #WhosAPimp?"

KatrinaElisseCaudle urged "Canadian babes" to tweet #notyourrescueproject to federal party leaders Elizabeth May, Justin Trudeau, and Thomas Mulcair.

Sabrina Morgan's message was more personal: "When you treat the profession as degrading, you degrade those in it. I take pride in my work & the services I provide. #notyourrescueproject"

Melissa Gira Grant's tweet addressed broader issues: "#notyourrescueproject because sex workers need to direct their own lives, not prop up your gritty documentary/TED talk/thesis/grant proposal"

Darby Hickey, a policy analyst who studies the sex trade, had this to say: "Because the laws in Sweden are not a model, they are a disaster. #NotYourRescueProject"

You can see a couple more tweets below.

Comments (22) Add New Comment
Stuff a sock in it. The only ones trying to save the industry are those profiting from it, which is an extreme minority, and only in privileged nations. Nothing to say of those who suffer by their complicit crimes. They can throw the rest of us under the bus so long as they're a celebrity? At least one had the honesty to admit that she cares more about herself than society.

BTW not all abolitionists are non-SW, but nearly all ex-SW are abolitionists. Shocking?

Find something better to report about than hashtags and trolls. At least get a quote from someone with a PhD or Master's in this subject. Sheesh. Laziness.

As if we needed another sex-pozzer dude's (redundant?!) opinion, anyway. Thanks for furthering the debate.
Rating: -76
Molli Desi Devadasi
In response to Tao I would say that this is the typical response to Sex Workers trying to speak out.... our voices are deemed trivial.

In the developing world thousands of women rely on paid sex to be independent.

Also you would rather listen to someone who would spend a year researching me and writing a paper than listening to me speak for myself ?

Rating: +59
B Magnanti
"Stuff a sock in it"? Yes, that's exactly the response expected from someone who opposes sex workers. Hence the hashtag - we refuse to be silenced.

By and large the ex-sex workers involved in activism are NOT outright abolitionists. Some are, but actually look at who is speaking up for sex workers' rights and it is the workers themselves, not some imaginary "pimp overlord".

"Get a quote from someone with a Master's or a PhD"... what, because you think the workers themselves aren't qualified enough to report on their actual lives? (Though for what it's worth I have both; there's your quote, love).
Rating: +59
>>BTW not all abolitionists are non-SW, but nearly all ex-SW are abolitionists

What are you basing that on?
Rating: +28
Rick in Richmond
When these people tell us how happy they would be to have their own daughters become prostitutes -- and why -- society might start listening.

Until then, nothing has changed. All the #s in the world cannot change the fact that prostitution commodifies women, exploits their desperation, vectors disease, is riddled with pimps and violence, and turns women into ashtrays for men.

What sort of person would want her own daughter to become a prostitute?
Rating: -8
Rick in Richmond is convinced that if you wouldn't support your own daughter doing it, then you must oppose prostitution.

It is true that many women who enter prostitution are poor, on drugs, or believe they have no alternative. But clearly that's not true of all women in the business. I wouldn't want my daughter to be a prostitute, but isn't the relevant question whether SHE would want to be a prostitute?

I would be terribly sad if she chose to become a prostitute. I would try to steer her from it, and I would feel I had failed as a father. But (as hard as this may for me to say) I wouldn't have a right to force her NOT to be prostitute.

By the way--I wouldn't be a whole lot happier if she became a hedge-fund manager either.
Rating: +44
Tao, do you often enjoy being dismissive of others and ignoring what they have to say based on your own assumptions?

I mean, sure, revel your belief that your sterotype is all that exists, and even that it's somehow the majority, when of course anyone with any knowledge of the topic that isn't an abolitionist knows that the majority of sex workers are invisible in any stats that you types listen to, because

a) the ones who choose to do sex work don't typically seek out attention (ie they are less visible than those who seek out victim services where they are counted as existing on paper)


b) the stats that show this fact whatsoever are ignored because they don't tell you what you want to hear

I mean, enjoy your "90% of sex workers would quit tomorrow" lie if you choose, ignoring the fact that about 90% of ANY job wouldn't do the work they do either if they didn't have to (duh, that's why one is paid...after all would you do your job if you could live without working?)

As for the whole "priviliged nations", people in your country cannot have rights so long as someone else in another country also does not?

Good luck applying those ethics to nearly any other aspect of your existence. I am sure you are destroying your computer as we speak, and will go explain to all the women you meet why they have to give up the right to have an abortion or vote or drive or have any say in their lives and have to wear a full body covering in solidarity with all women globally because until EVERYTHING is fixed EVERYWHERE they have no right to any of those things. LOL
Rating: +29
Norma Jean Almodovar
I would say that 100% of women who are forced into domestic servitude would support leaving the industry. No one volunteers to scrape up dried feces, urine or vomit of strangers for minimum wage. They are economically coerced into such labor because they have no other options.

Go to a battered women's shelter and ask the victims of domestic violence if they think marriage is wonderful. I am fairly certain that you will find the majority of them think marriage is a horrible institution. Given the percentage of women and children who are victims of abusive boyfriends, husbands and fathers, perhaps we ought to consider banning marriage to protect those poor women and children from THAT violence!

Oh, would you want your daughter to be married to a violent man? No? then support the abolition of marriage. How are you going to ensure that she marries someone who won't hurt her?

Would you want your daughter to have to scrub toilets for minimum wage or less? I don't think many women grow up wanting to become domestic servants, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't find employment there if that is all they can do... so obviously, we need to rescue those poor victims and find them some other menial labor which pays diddly squat.
Rating: +28
Some Dude
What we should be doing is making sure sex workers are safe and healthy - for their own sake and NOT subject to conditions that, they feel, compromise their dignity as human beings. Once we have achieved that, then we can talk about which path we, as a society, should go down.

Rating: +21
Dawn Schiller is a prostitution survivor who wrote "The Road Through Wonderland: Surviving John Holmes" and her story was made into the 2003 Val Kilmer movie Wonderland.

After being raped and prostituted teenager by violent porn industry insider John Holmes since age 15, Dawn was 19 and living with him in a motel when he beat her up in front of others staying at the motel. They waited until John went out and then went to her and insisted she leave him and come with them. She refused, he had tortured and brainwashed her for years and she was terrified. They refused to let her stay, refused to let the 19 year old "choose" to stay with notorious and dangerous pimp John Holmes, and that was how Dawn escaped.

This hashtag says those people were wrong to interfere. It says those people should have left Dawn where she was. I'm grateful good people don't listen to free market capitalists who view young women's reproductive organs as rentable public properties.
Rating: +11
Smoky Fig argues for intervention when we see violence or abuse. Absolutely. No one in their right mind would suggest that we tolerate violence against women. And while such violence or abuse does happen in the sex business it is not exclusive to the sex business. Some have presented this as an argument for legalization.

Fig then moves on to the capitalist exploitation argument--e.g. the vagina is a form of public property. The problem with this argument is that clearly the vagina is clearly NOT a form of public property. Public property by definition requires no entry fee. Even the most desperate prostitute is still charging for sex; indeed, it is the fact that she does charge for sex that makes her a prostitute.

Prostitutes are the ultimate free market capitalists--they charge (quite well) for their services--and so too are those who advocate the so-called Nordic model.The only difference between the former and the latter is price.

Neither of the conventional sides of the debate is in fact anti-capitalist. A truly anti-capitalist view of sex would view sex as a public good, demand that it be free, and compel us all to have more of it.

Rating: +16
Those women aren't having sex. Only the john is.

And actually, most of them aren't women. Did you think we wouldn't notice? Women exploited in the sex industry want out.
Rating: -2
Men and woman deserve unbiased representation in any industry.

I worked as a server throughout my twenties, which enabled me to be a financially independent, single woman. When I first entered the hospitality industry, I endured and witnessed countless acts of verbal and sexual abuse. It is common for men and woman in this industry to have substance abuse problems because of the late hours and accessibility, and I found myself drinking at work to handle my abusive employer and numb my sensitivity to the sexual harassment from patrons.

I eventually discovered not all restaurants and bars operated this way. I started seeing a therapist to help strengthen my ability to set boundaries and I found a serving job in a healthy, professional restaurant. My family, friends and therapist did not try to rescue me from the industry, they encouraged me to stand up for my rights as a human being; to not tolerate abuse in any form.

Interestingly enough, one of my friends who offered advice on how to deal with sexually harassment in the workplace, was an escort. She left the restaurant industry because she found it too degrading.
Rating: +22
Stop being so damn sexist. Men & women are involved, as well as every shade of physical and mental sexuality in between.As a performer, I am not immune to the lecherous glances and hands of strangers, they see me as an objectified thing that they desire. My own SW friends have been instrumental in helping me have and communicate boundaries effectively, and in developing these with others so they might save themselves from an easily avoidable situation.

NotMyRescueProject has its good and bad points. Yes, we need to involve ourselves when we see unconsented and inhuman treatment, absolutely. But to tell someone who chooses to let you smile at your own intimacies that they are not free to make their own damn decisions is bullshit.
Rating: -1
Hazlit makes the mistake of conflating SOME for ALL.

SOME "sex workers" charge "quite well" for their "services", sure, but not all. That some fortunate escorts make good bank is not sufficient justification for the systemization and institutionalization of prostitution when on the streets now currently there exists a significant over-representation of youth and aboriginal women in survival sex work. The same girls and women who would only become further ghettoized by the implementation of legal brothels. I dare Hazlit to go up to any of the young girls and women "working" in the streets of the DTES, Kingsway, and elsewhere, who risk their lives EVERY DAY that they are "the ultimate free market capitalists". What kind of Orwellian world are we living in? Hazlit and pro sex-work lobbyists like him clearly don't speak for the most marginalized in the so-called sex "industry".
Rating: +3
Please see the following quotes for evidence that trafficking and survival sex work are REAL and RELEVANT to this discussion. Pro-prostitution lobbyists erase the voices and experiences of survival sex workers who maintain sex work is not work, but systemic exploitation of women as a class. Trafficking of women and children for "sex work" happens to meet demand. Demand that is higher than supply.

"Transken added that it's important to recognize the societal factors that force women into survival sex work. 'When the provincial and federal governments abandoned vulnerable people by not providing adequate minimum wage, by not providing adequate housing, by not providing good health care…it forces them to make these kinds of decisions,' she said." - Survival Sex Work in BC's North, The Tyee

"Youth most frequently reported exchanging sexual acts for shelter or a place to sleep (48%). Other commonly-reported commodities that youth traded sexual activity for included money for food, toiletries, drugs, and clothing, and money to support children or younger siblings. Many reported being kicked out their homes, off of their friend’s couch or out of a shelter, and in a panicked state made the decision to find a “sugar daddy,” an ex-boyfriend with whom they had a history of abuse, or anyone who would let them stay in their home, and off the street, in exchange for sexual activity." - Covenant House Trafficking Study, May 2013 Covenant House NY
Rating: +9
im2old4thisship said
"systemic exploitation of women as a class"
...and quite frankly that is simply the type of ideological garbage that women who are criminals can count on from women like you.
Some of these women down here are NOT SW -- but are street criminals and active foot soldiers in some of the gangs. They act as 'lures', mules and they all carry knives. You will not convince anyone that a women who actively and purposely seeks out older vulnerable men for the sole purpose of beating and robbing them is a victim.

I myself a year + 1/2 ago on the DES was confronted by one of your precious little victims. She stalked up to me and ask me, a complete stranger, to 'front her ten bucks'. No, get lost. She then said and I quote: "Either give me the money or I start screaming and those guys over there are going fuck you up" Happens all the time.
No bigot is going to ever convince me that I had something to do with her addiction or her poor choices in life. She was a criminal. Not a sex worker.

No doubt at some point on the DES, she came in contact with a womens' agency and probably someone like yourself started her education on how to USE the ideology of victimization and play on the bigoted notion that the Man must have at least SOME culpability simply because he is a Man.
Rating: +1
Male Sex Worker
Another great article from Charlie Smith. My hero!

Thanks for consistently taking the side of sex workers and reporting on the sex work issue in a compassionate and nuanced way instead of the same abolitionist or whorephobic tripe spewed up by the mainstream media.

And a question for all the other people arguing about what sex work is.

Can we try to accept that there are myriad experiences of people sex work?

There are those who are empowered, have lots of freedom, make lots of money, love their work and have never, not once, experienced violence. Like me.

And there are those at the other end of the scale who have little if any choice to do the work because they have no other ways to survive. They hate it and they experience violence.

And there are lots of people in the middle. Think bell curves.

So glad that this conversation is on the radar especially in light of the prostitution laws being struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Rating: +12
I did prostitution when I was a homeless teenager. I'm now in my 40's with an incurable case of Hepatitis C and in treatment for depression and PTSD. I'm unable to work full time because of these conditions which I acquired as a direct result of doing prostitution and the violence that I experienced in it. It's effected my entire life physically, psychologically, economically and personally. Please stop pretending that all women in prostitution have the same privileges or experiences. I wish someone had 'rescued' me when I was in it. I may not have the problems that I have now if someone had intervened earlier rather than stood back and politely respected my 'agency'.
Rating: -1
Male Sex Worker

Apparently your experience with sex work also affected your ability to read.
Rating: -5


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