Sex Workers: Your Voice Counts

SEX WORKERS: YOUR VOICE COUNTS shares the stories of four women in San Francisco who are redefining and reclaiming sex work with dignity, awareness and education. This 14 minute documentary tells the story of current and former sex workers who have overcome violence, stigma, and stereotypes. In sharing their stories, Abby, Bella, Carol and Cinnamon seek to pave the way and invite others to let their voices count as sex workers, as sexual professionals, and experts contributing to society in a way that is far more profound than society as a whole realizes. 

"If you are a sex worker, you have skills. You have skills that are extraordinary." - Carol Queen
 

 

 

Discussion Guide*

The accompanying Discussion Guide provides questions to engage audience members in meaningful discussion about the issues surrounding sex work and stigma in society.

Themes

  • Coming Out
  • Stigma
  • The Healing Aspects of Sex Work
  • Sexual Health of our culture
  • Sex Workers Building Community

Discussion Questions  

  • What stood out for you the most in the film and why?
  • What perceptions or assumptions do you carry with you about sex workers? Please take a minute to reflect on this.

In the film Abby says: "I love an intimate connection with people that are lonely and need a friend and someone to talk to, that need affection and the power of touch. Touch is really underrated... at the end of it I curl up next to people and I cuddle, and sometimes their favorite part is just lying next to me. For many reasons not everyone gets that when they want it. It just feels good, giving and exchanging energy with people, and affection and attention. I think it's a really positive thing."

  • How do you feel about her statement?
  • In what ways does it challenge common negative assumptions about sex work?
  • How did your perceptions change after watching this film?

Carol Queen states: "In a culture that is sexually sane, perhaps we would need fewer sex workers, but we would also know the ways in which sex work should be respected."

  • In what ways is our culture not "sexually sane"?
  • How do you imagine that sex workers would be treated in a more sexually healthy culture?
  • Why do you think that sex workers experience stigma in society? In particular, why do female sex workers experience stigma? Why do you think sex workers do not have a voice in society?

Having sex work be illegal in most places in the United States often means that if sex workers want to transition out of sex work, they are often stuck in the profession because they cannot be more open about their work with future employers.

  • In what ways can you imagine that the legalization or decriminalization of prostitution would benefit sex workers?
  • In the film Carol Queen proposes ways for sex workers to express themselves and demand a voice/place in society. What does she propose? What other ways can you think for sex workers to have a voice in society and to be respected?
  • What role can education, media and culture play in this context?
    • Think about how sex workers are often portrayed in the media.
    • How do you think the media's portrayal affects people's views on sex work?
    • How has this film provided a different perspective?

Facts and Resources 

"The wrongs associated with sex work are all too often attributed to the nature of sex work itself instead of to the stigma attached to it or to specific negative circumstances. Likewise, the association between prostitution and negative features (in particular HIV and early victimization) is overwhelming, despite evidence that, for large groups of sex workers, these issues are of limited relevance." 

Another Decade of Social Scientific Work on Sex Work: A Review of Research 1990 - 2000 Ine Vanwesenbeeck, Netherlands Institute of Social Sexological Research. 

 

Meet the Filmmakers

 

JULIANNE CARROLL desires to create art and media to fight for social justice. She is deeply committed to creating art, dialogue, and research around issues of gender and human sexuality. Julianne has completed her MA in Sexuality Studies at San Francisco State. Upon graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in social justice documentary film focused on sexuality issues. Julianne received her BA in journalism from the University of Washington, Seattle. Since moving to the Bay Area, Julianne has become more involved in advocating for the rights of sex workers, queer people, and folks in alternative sexual and relationship communities. Julianne has worked as a Sexuality Educator with young women in Oakland, and a Queer Youth program director in San Jose. Julianne believes that gender and sexuality are fluid, in flux, and culturally conditioned, and should be expressed and experienced free of shame and societal stigma. With this film, she hopes honor the vast contribution sex workers make to the sexual expression and health of society. Email: juliannelovesme@gmail.com

 

CHRISTIANA CHARALAMBOUS is an aspiring Cinematographer who studied at San Francisco State University's Cinema Department. She is an international film student from Cyprus, and graduated from Patra's University in Greece with a degree in philosophy. She has since graduated from SFSU. During her studies in the U.S, Christiana has made several short films, with this being her first documentary. As a Cinematographer, Christiana aspires to tell stories visually and to explore questions of human existence with cinematic techniques. She has a preference for a more artistic way of filmmaking and telling a story with more images and less words. Hopefully in the future she will be able to tell stories with cinematic means that are not only used to make a film visually appealing but also enhance the story of the film. 

 

RYAN NEMEC is an aspiring filmmaker and graduate of SFSU. Born of a Croatian mother and an Abenaki father in Cupertino, CA.; Ryan takes his influence from the modern technological landscape of Silicon Valley, along with the Native American traditions and stories which were passed down from his father. Using the moving image as his medium, Ryan uses sound and visuals to tell stories and lessons that hopefully will inspire the viewer to think and reevaluate. Film is the combination of the ancient art of storytelling with modern instruments and techniques, which perfectly exemplifies Ryan's perceived purpose in life. Interested in both Sound Design and Editing, Ryan hopes to capture and manipulate stories and pass them down for future generations to grow from.

 

CHRIS DOBBINS

 

*The information on these pages is provided by the student film makers and does not represent an endorsement or verification of statements from the Health Equity Institute