Mission Statement

Sex Workers Outreach Project Chicago [SWOP-Chicago] is an organization dedicated to improving the lives of current and former sex workers in the Chicago area, on and off of the job. When the work we perform is criminalized and stigmatized, we are denied the dignity and safety that are the inherent rights of every human. We stand with our allies in the labor, feminist, queer, and civil rights movements in demanding an equal society, in which no person or group of people is demeaned, demoralized, victimized, or otherwise harmed by other individuals or the state. Physical and psychological violence against sex workers is tolerated, and often encouraged, in a society which considers their lives criminal and immoral. Workers have no legal recourse when they are raped, abused, or placed in unhealthy working conditions by clients or employers. When arrested, many have little access to legal counsel, and an arrest can harm an individual’s opportunity for future employment as well as their emotional, financial, and family life. Until sex work is decriminalized, and deeply rooted cultural stigma against sex workers is removed, we will continue to be targeted for violence of all kinds.

SWOP-Chicago is composed of current and former sex workers – including prostitutes, professional dominants, porn actors, strippers, and sex educators – and our academic and activist allies, working together to ensure that sex workers are allowed healthy and fulfilling labor and lives. We represent a diverse range of experience and background, and have no tolerance for discrimination based on race, gender, or class within our ranks. As we consider every human life of equal worth, we work to eliminate discriminatory hierarchies evident among sex workers as well as within society at large. We support the right of all individuals to freely choose their work: We oppose trafficking and coercive labor of all kinds, from forced prostitution to unpaid migrant agricultural work. Coercive and forced labor are correlated with discriminatory immigration policy, the international dearth of living-wage jobs, the subjugation of women, and the criminalization which forces the sex industry underground. While these issues are important to every member of SWOP-Chicago, we are most capable of addressing the needs of consensual, adult sex workers, and can refer coerced workers and their advocates to organizations that can better meet their needs.

We address the issues that profoundly affect our work: access to supportive community and health care, violence at the hands of police, clients, and employers, the criminalization of our families and loved ones, and cultural stigma and mythology surrounding the sex industry. We employ a broad range of tactics and strategies, and work closely with other national and international sex workers’ rights organizations. SWOP-Chicago’s work is divided between outreach (providing access to a supportive network of resources and workers), education (bringing the voices of sex workers to academics, activists, and the general public), and decriminalization (changing the legal system that puts us at risk for violence and coercion).While none of our goals is easily achieved, we intend to struggle until every sex worker can live and work in safety and freedom.

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