Fantasies That Matter
About this slideshow
The above photos and the video below are impressions from the Fantasies That Matter: Images of Sex Work in Media and Art conference, which took place August 8-10, 2014 at Kampnagel in Hamburg. Due to concerns for sex workers’ privacy and anonymity on the one hand and the low light settings in the auditorium on the other, the above are mostly images of the “headliners” of the event. By no means does this represent an attempt to deliberately exclude any of the sex workers who spoke during the conference.
Please take particular notice of the image containing sex workers’ feedback to the organisers and instructions for people aiming to support sex workers. Please continue reading the articles by current and former sex workers quoted below, as well as by Mithu Sanyal, Annie Sprinkle and Verena Reygers, and check Twitter for tweets using the hashtag #fantasiesthatmatter which include quotes from the speakers and thoughts from sex workers and others in the audience.
Articles by current or former sex workers
Reflections on ‘Fantasies That Matter’ by Fornicatrix
There’s no denying good intentions are important, but what’s crucial are the actions of self-appointed allies who can end up silencing those they wish to amplify, hiding those they try to visibilise or simply unintentionally taking up too much space in a conversation where sex workers are already squeezed to the sides.
Let’s turn this into an opportunity to have an ongoing discussion about sex work, representation, identity, performance art, feminism, allyship and the countless other conversational starting points that this unforgettable conference gave us.
Conference after conference happens and personality after personality is elevated to having these super large platforms where they can speak, and there is a glaring absence of color when it comes to sex work.
Name me one person of color – and I’m not even talking about just Black people – one person of color woman, man, cis, trans, I don’t care, fat, skinny, ugly, pretty, tall, short, I don’t care. Name me one person of color who is or has been a sex worker who is a go-to personality to speak on sex work. Nobody.
And that absence is deafening… to me. And I don’t understand particularly why that’s not a problem for more sex workers. That there is absolutely no diversity in the community as it is represented to our larger society and world. That, really and truly, we’re simply reinforcing that when you think of: a sex worker, a prostitute, a cam model, a phone sex operator, whatever, when you think of those people, you think of a white person – and it’s always a white woman.
It’s essential to ask yourself why you’re identifying yourself as an ally, and to realise that there is no such thing as conditional allyship: if you won’t tolerate criticism or take direction, or if you require gratitude, niceties, or honorary membership from the people you’re supporting, you’re doing it wrong.
If you won’t move beyond acknowledging your power to doing something about the injustice of it, you’re not an ally. And if you indicate that you intend to withdraw your support because you feel undervalued, then I suggest you go elsewhere, because you are putting your own interests before those of the people you’re supporting, and anyone who’s more interested in the feel-good factor of ‘helping’ than actually improving the lives of others is not a loss to any liberation movement.
The experience of the sex work stigma is the foundation of our sex worker community. I believe that if we understand ourselves as a political movement that agitates against this stigma, then it’s crucial to create critical awareness about that in our communities. The more people out themselves and identify as “whores”, the sooner it will become apparent, that sex work exists in the midst of our societies – not at the margins!
Sex workers and clients go to the baker’s, raise children, have relationships and pay taxes. They got friends, lovers, siblings and parents. It must be evident how diverse “we” are and that the stigma affects some more than others, for various reasons. But I believe what we need above all is solidarity.
Commentary by Mithu Sanyal
Excerpt from a comment by Mithu Sanyal, one of the panellists of the conference. Please click here to read her entire comment.
One of the critiques is that there weren’t enough people of color on the panel. Well, the point is, Germany is different from America, for example in so far as the Others here aren’t visibly black. They are Greek like Margarita, the organizer of the conference who has spend the last years watching her country going to pieces. They are Spanish like María do Mar Castro Varela , who was on the panel together with Maiz. Or they are mixed race like me, Indian and Polish. Yes, there was only one trans person on the stage, but believe me, that wasn’t for want of trying on the organizers part.
The situation is a very specific one in Germany at the moment and that is important to know. In Germany we are trying to stop the government making sex work illegal again. That was the reason fort his particular conference and that was the reason why there were sex workers and lawyers and academics on the panels. These ware all people fighting for our rights at the moment and when you look at the German newspapers they are doing a great job. Politicians listen to us. At the end of the year we will find out. That is when they decide about a new law.
Reflections on Hamburg by Annie Sprinkle
On August 19th, Annie Sprinkle published her reflections on Hamburg via Facebook. Click here to read them (no Facebook account necessary).
In retrospect, I am reminded that when it comes to “sex work,” definitions, herstories, labor issues, and problems vary a lot from country to country and person to person. I empathize with the struggle that sex workers on the front lines of the “war on whores” face today. If there is any chance of winning this war, both lovers and fighters are needed. I do wish ALL of you every success. My heart goes out to the working whores on the front lines. Take exquisite care of your selves, and each other. And please, by all means, make more art and fantasies that matter.”
“Von der Rolle” by Verena Reygers
Commentary by Verena Reygers [in German] who participated in the ‘Ritual of Whores’. Verena Reygers is a Hamburg-based journalist and a regular contributor to Missy Magazine. Her commentary appeared in German weekly newspaper der freitag.
A project like Fantasies That Matter was deliberately held in an art space, and art is an appropriate tool to convey topics and criticism to audiences that are not part of the respective political discussions. A best case scenario will amplify the vigour to pursue the goals of those who are concerned. Or, as Annie Sprinkle says, ‘Sex work doesn’t just concern a small group of practitioners, it concerns us all.’
Video above published with kind permission by Annie Sprinkle © 2014 Matt Lemon Photography. The conference was organised by Missy Magazine in collaboration with Hamburg International Summer Festival at Kampnagel.
Photos: © Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved.