Sex Work Charity Clarity

Sex Work Charity Clarity

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Recently, I received a tweet from a woman who works as a sex worker advocate. She gives talks and educates people about sex workers, their position in society, and their rights. By “sex workers” I mean adults who willingly engage in sex work without any form of coercion—not trafficking victims.

Well, I guess I shouldn’t say I “received a tweet” from her. It was more like she was pointing at me and sneering to all her followers.

She was like, “Just got followed by this girl promoting a book about working for a sex worker and claiming she’ll donate to Polaris Project.”

Then she tweeted direct to me that she did not follow me because she didn’t approve of donating to Polaris Project. I asked her to clarify or send a link with more info, but she ignored me after that. Oh well.

At first I felt really bad and criticized and generally unwanted by anyone ever, until I realized she could have taken a much different approach to me in the first place and she was being kind of a dick. Then I stopped feeling bad.

I couldn’t figure out what her beef was with Polaris Project. I thought I’d researched them pretty thoroughly, and didn’t find too much serious criticism on them. They checked out great on CharityNavigator.org. But I started another round of research, and found an article that explained things:

“By refusing to distinguish between consensual sex work and rape/slavery, NGOs like Polaris not only ignore the wishes of consensual sex workers, but also make light of the real suffering endured by victims of exploitation.”

The article goes into more detail, but that’s the gist of it. Now the Twitter woman’s criticism made more sense.

I had actually thought about this when choosing where to donate. I would rather not support an organization that aids trafficking victims but comes down against consensual sex workers (after all, my book is about a sex worker). However, most organizations I’d come across seemed very either/or—either you support trafficking victims and criminalizing prostitution, or you support sex workers and decriminalization.

But after reading the SWAAY article (Did you click on it above? Here it is again if you want to.) I found the Sex Workers Project:

“As the only US organization meeting the needs of both sex workers and trafficking victims, the Sex Workers Project serves a marginalized community that few others reach. We engage in policy and media advocacy, community education and human rights documentation, working to create a world that is safe for sex workers and where human trafficking does not exist.”


The Sex Workers Project isn’t listed with Charity Navigator, so I’ve been doing my own digging. With an extra large virtual shovel. I haven’t turned up anything about them to make me sigh and feel sad, but if you’ve heard of problems with their work, please give me a heads up.

The world of non-profit organizations and donations isn’t always easy to navigate, and no matter what good work you’re doing in the world, there will always be someone to sneer and say you’re doing the good work in the wrong way. Awareness helps.

I can’t come down against Polaris Project, like the SWAAY article does. It’s difficult to do good work in this area when most of the public’s understanding of sex work doesn’t differentiate between willing and unwilling prostitutes, and when there’s so much public condemnation of the willing kind.

It’s a sticky situation.

That was a bad pun. I should stop writing this article now.

L. Marrick is a fiction writer and freelance copywriter. 50% of proceeds from her book Working Girl, a memoir of her time working for a professional escort, go to sex trafficking non-profits. She waxes poetic about swords and the Renaissance Faire at her author blog. She looks all professional-like at her copywriting site. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter @LMarrick.

© L. Marrick 2014. The content of this article, except for quoted or linked source materials, is protected by copyright. Please contact the author at the above links to request usage.

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