New review: ‘Because sex workers shouldn’t have to be dead to be on film’

Ania Ostrowska reviews the first ever London Sex Worker Film Festival and argues that sex workers’ rights are a feminist issue

festival stage.jpg

Last month London hosted, alongside the Queen’s official birthday celebration and the London Annual Naked Bike Ride (which rather surprisingly came together here), two events which were or were not feminist, depending on who passed judgement.

First of these was SlutWalk, about which enough has been said in both the mainstream media and on numerous feminist blogs (including on The F-Word here and here), and which divided feminists in the UK and around the world. The usual suspects, mainly white middle-class feminists, debated how much (if any) of a slut is a good thing. However, you can read a very good critique of SlutWalk from a woman of colour’s perspective here.

The other event, the first ever London Sex Worker Film Festival, held at the Rio Cinema in Dalston on Sunday 12 June, hasn’t taken up much space in UK feminist debates.. Just as for some feminists the word ‘slut’ is impossible to salvage from the claws of patriarchal discourse (though, ironically, some seem comfortable speaking of ‘promiscuity’ and ‘loose sexual behaviour’), for some feminists a ‘sex worker’ brings to mind someone who is always a woman but also always must be seen as a victim (of her false consciousness; of men exploiting her; of a dramatic economic situation). Rather than swooping to the rescue of sex workers, this festival sought to amplify their own voices.

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