Sex Workers' Festival of Resistance NYC

14:00–18:00 Sun 4 Mar
 / New York

For this day-long festival, sex workers and their allies from New York, the tri-state area, and Europe will gather at MoMA PS1 to debate, perform, dance, strategize, and share knowledge. Addressing this pressing global human rights issue, the afternoon seeks to create a communal space in which advocacy groups, sex workers, allies, and guests can work to expand awareness and continue to build crucial alliances.


What to Expect

Emceed by Ceyenne Doroshow, the afternoon is built around two panel discussions, organized with and featuring sex workers, their allies, and participating advocacy groups. The talks will examine how the desires and struggles of sex workers become embodied in everyday acts of creativity and solidarity.

The first panel, sex work, migration and trafficking in New York City, is facilitated by Melissa Ditmore, Ph.D, a consultant specializing in issues of gender, development, health, and human rights, particularly in relation to marginalized populations such as sex workers and migrants. Ditmore is joined by Heidi Hoefinger, Ph.D, a visiting scholar in anthropology at John Jay college, where she is the lead researcher on ethnographic research into sex work, migration and anti-trafficking efforts in New York City; Jenna Torres, the project coordinator at the Red Umbrella Project and long-time advocate for sex workers rights and decriminalization, who will speak about her own experiences with the New York Anti-Trafficking Courts; and Shirley McLaren, Secretary of Aprosex (Association of Sex Professionals) Barcelona, Co-Convenor of International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE), and co-host of the radio show "El Puticlub.”
The second panel, Hoes in Different Area Codes: A Panel of Diversity in Sex Work, focuses on the variety of occupations within the sex work industry and the possibilities for solidarity. Facilitated by Melissa Sontag Broudo, Co-Director of SOAR Institute and long-time participant in the sex workers' rights and harm reduction movements, the panel will feature Mistress Leigh, a professional dominatrix and fetish wrestler; RJ Thompson, Director of the Sex Workers Project; Ceyenne Doroshow, the Director of GLITS and a former sex worker; Gizelle Marie, a dancer and lead organizer of the New York City Stripper Strike; and Shirley McLaren.

The Incredible, Edible, (MF) Akynos from the Black Sex Workers Collective will present a specially conceived new film and dance performance She's A Bitch: On the gaze of sex workers in modern society and forming a #himtoo movement.

A presentations of short films and key scenes that celebrate sex workers’ struggles from around the world and will be presented in a two-part program coordinated by PJ Starr from Moral High Ground Productions and featuring contributions by festival collaborators. Across racial, cultural, and national differences, sex workers of all genders and their allies discuss their desire to live free of stigma and criminalization.

If you identify as part of the sex worker community and the ticket cost is a barrier to your participation, please email guestlist_ps1@moma.org to request access. All requests will be treated as confidential.

For more information, to notify our staff of any special needs, or for any access questions you might have, please call the front desk during regular public hours at (718) 784-2085 or email mail_ps1@moma.org.


Programme of Events

Final line-up still to be confirmed. But will include:

Panel - Sex Work, Migration and Trafficking in New York City

Panel - Hoes in Different Area Codes: A Panel of Diversity in Sex Work

Performance - The Incredible, Edible, (MF) Akynos - She's A Bitch: On the gaze of sex workers in modern society and forming a #himtoo movement

Akynos is a New York raised stripper and performance artist and founder of the grassroots community project The Black Sex Worker Collective. For the past decade she has been featured in burlesque showcases from New York to Europe. She is a proud sex worker and human rights activist. She has performed  and has had her work featured at international conferences such as the 2016 International AIDS conference in South Africa and the AWID conference in Brazil of the same year. Her film Whore Logic has been featured in film festivals such as The Sex Worker Film and Arts festival. She is an educator in the field of sexuality, HIV, performance and fine art. She obtained her degrees from Goddard College. She has published her work at A Kiss For Gabriela and has a publication forthcoming in The Handbook of Sex Work Research (Routledge, 2018). She currently has a new bi-weekly variety showcase with her dance troupe Koffee every other Thursdays at Essence bar in Brooklyn. Go to www.akynos.com for more information.


Film Programme

A powerful montage of short films and key scenes that celebrate sex workers’ liberation struggles from around the world will be presented in a two part film programme. Across racial, cultural and national differences sex workers of all genders and their allies assert their right to live free of stigma and criminalisation.Including the following films and extracts:

WHORELOGIC: WHO IS A WHORE (2013, USA, 2 mins) by PJ Starr and The Incredible, Edible, (MF) Akynos

Melds elements of burlesque, video, an uncensored spoken­ word performance and astounding archival footage of a car crash caused by public indecency to explore the journey of one woman who discovers the joy of using her body for power, to pay her rent and to finally understand her sexual objectification.

MAJOR! (2015, USA, 8 min extract) by Annalise Ophelian

This is the story of one woman’s journey, a community’s history, and how caring for each other can be a revolutionary act. MAJOR! follows the life and campaigns of Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a 73-year-old Black transgender woman who has been fighting for the rights of trans women of color for over 40 years.

RED UMBRELLA RIGHTS (2017, USA, 6 min extract) by Molly Merryman

An extract from a 54-minute documentary that interviews sex worker activists and utilizes ethnographic methods to capture event organizing and activism. It uses the annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers event to explore issues of sex workers’ rights, LGBTQ rights and the targeting of sex workers in violent attacks. Featured in the documentary are significant LGBTQ and sex positive activists including Robyn Few and Carol Leigh (aka Scarlot Harlot), who famously coined the term “sex work.”

PUTA MESTIZA (2014, Spain, 2 min extract) by Linda Porn

Miles de migrantes mueren en el Mediterráneo, otros sobreviven utilizando distintas estrategias para a atravesar las fronteras europeas que son criminalizadas al estar fuera de las leyes de extranjería. Puta Mestiza es una de esas migrantes que gracias a esas redes puede entrar y trabajar en la industria del sexo. En primera persona nos cuenta que no es traficada, ni engañada pero si nos cuenta la falta de derechos, el limbo donde vive así como ha sido lanzada a los márgenes para nunca poder borrar el estigma que ha caído sobre ella.

SAVIOUR COMPLEX (2008, Canada, 4 mins 45 secs) by Ariel Smith
Drags us into a surrealist, cinematic nightmare while punching a hole in the hooker with a heart of gold stereotype.

WHAT YOU DON'T SEE (2017, Brazil, 7 mins 30 secs) by Angela Donini, Flavia Viana, Laura Murray, Marina Cavalcanti, Tais Lobo

Asserting sex workers’ right to the city and challenges stigmatizing discourses through images, texts and audio the film was produced by sex workers during Rio de Janeiro’s 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

RAISING RED UMBRELLAS IN AFRICA (2016, Kenya, 30 secs extract) by African Sex Workers Alliance

An extract from the short documentary detailing the sex work movement, and initial organising, that led to the formation of the African Sex Workers Alliance (ASWA). ASWA is the pan African alliance of sex worker-led organisations that seeks to amplify, promote, and protect the human rights of sex workers living, and working in Africa.

NO HUMAN INVOLVED (2016, USA, 3 mins extract) by PJ Starr

A woman is destroyed by a 27-month prison sentence for prostitution in Arizona, the tenacity of those who fight for justice in her name. An extract from the feature length documentary about Marcia Powell and the Phoenix community.

PREDATORY PROSTITUTE (2015, 7 min extract) by Juniper Fleming

The film is rooted in the compelling relationships sex workers have, both directly and indirectly, to the legacy of Aileen Wuornos. A lesbian prostitute sentenced to death six times for seven murders, though she claimed self-defense. Demonized as a inverted prostitute serial killer or pitied as an child/animal-minded victim, her portrait hangs heavy. This film uses found footage to invert the common narratives around Aileen, creating an alternative framework by which we can view her actions and ourselves.

THE HONEY BRINGER (2012, UK, 5 min extract) by Clare Havell & Vincent Lee, produced by The Sex Worker Open University

As UN policymakers and politicians meet in Washington for the AIDS conference, sex workers gather in Kolkata India for an alternative summit, the Sex Worker Freedom Festival. Denied entry to the conference in the USA because of their work, sex workers from Asia, South America, Africa, and Europe send a clear message; and it is not victimhood, but power that speaks, to reveal what lies behind the stigmatisation and oppressions of sex workers.

WHORELOGIC: FEMINIST BITCHES (USA, 2013, 1 min) by PJ Starr and The Incredible, Edible, (MF) Akynos

Melds elements of burlesque, video, an uncensored spoken ­word performance and astounding archival footage of a car crash caused by public indecency to explore the journey of one woman who discovers the joy of using her body for power, to pay her rent and to finally understand her sexual objectification.

VAMP PROTESTS PROSTITUTES OF GOD (India, 2010, 3 mins 30 secs) by Sangli Talkies

This brief clip by the Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad (VAMP, Prostitutes Collective Against Injustice), encapsulates a succinct response to Prostitutes of God, a sensationalized and factually flawed documentary produced by Sarah Harris for VBS TV. Countering the distorted perspective in the film, women from VAMP present their incisive views about sex work; religion and faith; livelihoods; issues of consent; ethics and cross-cultural sensitivities while making documentary films. In the age of the internet, women in countries far away who used to be the objects of white people’s gaze with no right of reply now have access to the representations that are made of them, and the technological means to answer back. A naive westerner may seize the headlines, but there is now scope for there to be a debate and to bring those who in the past would have remained voiceless victims into that debate to represent themselves. Thi is a great opportunity to put the record straight.

LAST RESCUE IN SIAM (2012, Thailand, 10 mins) by Empower Foundation

The first film ever made by sex workers in Thailand. The film skewers anti-trafficking policies operating in Thailand and explores how the agendas of the police, military, health care providers and radical feminists have a tangible effect on the lives of sex workers. The film was shot within and around the Empower premises in Chiang Mai and the only collectively owned sex worker bar in Thailand, the Can Do Bar.

#DEC17: A visual history of sex worker protests (2017, Canada, 3 mins) by Andy Sorfleet and Kerry Porth

Conceived two years ago the film is inspired by the lyrics in Queen's "We Are the Champions," and the resonance of those words with many sex workers' lives. The filmmakers began by collecting and pulling together found images - mostly from the Internet - of sex workers protesting from around the world and through time and filed them by year and by city. December 17 is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. It can be a very sad time for activists as we remember and recount the ones we have lost. We wanted to donate something to the international sex workers movement that could be uplifting, using our social media. Vigils alone will not end violence. And sex workers have been vigilant for more than 50 years in our pursuit to live free. We wanted to show this tenacity and strength and courage as a token of our solidarity with our sisters and brothers struggling around the world. Produced for Triple-X Workers Solidarity Association of B.C. 2017.

The film programme was co-ordinated by PJ Starr (Moral High Ground Productions) with contributions from J. Leigh Brantly, Ceyenne Doroshow (GLITS), Carol Leigh (San Francisco Bay Area Film and Art Festival), Laure McElroy (POOR Magazine/POOR News Network and the San Francisco Bay Area Film and Art Festival), Anna Saini (BPPP), Shirley McLaren and Luca Stevenson (SWARM).


Organized with

Aprosex (Spain), Arika (UK), Black Sex Workers Collective (New York), Gays and Lesbians Living In a Transgender Society (New York), International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE) (Europe), New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance (New Jersey), Red Umbrella Project (New York), Sharmus Outlaw Advocacy and Rights (SOAR) Institute (New York) and MoMA PS1 (New York)