Media Campaign

“Someone You Know is a Sex Worker”:  A St. James Infirmary media campaign to raise public awareness about sex workers’ rights.

In keeping with our philosophy that social stigma contributes negatively to the health and wellness of sex workers, we’ve been working on a public education campaign titled, “Someone You Know is a Sex Worker.”

In December of 2010 and January of 2011, our volunteer graphic designer and sex worker activist Rachel Schreiber joined forces with Chicago fine arts photographer and pornographer Barbara DeGenevieve to create this campaign of portraits and interviews with 27 sex workers and their families members from the Bay Area along with service providers from the St. James Infirmary.

Our goals with the campaign are:
1) To point out that sex workers are every day people and are valued members of the community.
2) To educate the general community that sex workers are equal members of society, and that our rights are human rights.
3) To promote our position that sex work is real work, and that sex workers deserve labor rights.
4) To raise awareness about the important work of the St. James Infirmary.

The interviews and photographs are intimate and poignant, and have resulted in the creation of beautiful images for our posters and an inspiring message of compassion and justice. Each poster features a portrait, and a line of text about what it is like to be a sex worker, to care for a sex worker, or to love a sex worker.

All the images along with the various quotes, layout and design were reviewed by over 25 members of the sex worker community, staff from the Infirmary and another 12 members of the general community for feedback.  The final 7 agency posters and the Muni bus ad (image above) are a result of this community feedback. Funding from the craigslist Charitable Fund helped make this ad campaign possible.

We have printed 7 of the agency posters and they are NOW for sale on our webstore.  Additionally, we are selling postcards in sets of 10.

Our original intent was to have a billboard ad campaign throughout San Francisco.  However when we approached CBS Outdoor and Clear Chanel with our art work (similar to image featured above), we were rejected because the words “sex work” and “sex worker” are not considered “family friendly” terms by these major retailers.  Committed to the global sex worker rights movement, and the core principles that sex work is real work, that our rights are human rights, that we deserve social justice and labor rights, we sought other vendors who would accept our message as a very human message suitable for every family. We eventually found Titan 360 and decided on the Muni buses for our ad.

Everyone interviewed and photographed was given a $15 gift card and signed a consent form agreeing to have their photographs and interviews used in public. The community review process choose the finalists to be used in the agency posters and Muni bus ads. Every finalist receive a $50 gift card.  These gift card were presented to the finalist at our Media Launch Party.  You can also read the press release. The other images and interviews are being used and will continue to be used in other SJI materials and art shows.

Furthermore, our campaign was nominated by the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) for a consultancy to the World Health Organization (WHO), in collaboration with UNFPA, UNDP and NSWP. As part of the consultation, Stephany Ashley presented our media campaign to the WHO in Geneva at the end of January, 2012.  The consultation aims to identify and document programmes/strategies to address violence faced by sex workers in the context of HIV. This consultation is part of a process to develop WHO guidelines on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services in lower and middle income countries for female, male and transgender sex workers and their clients. When published, the guidelines will include specific recommendations for health care providers as well as good practice in areas of community mobilization, human rights and violence against sex workers. Congrats are in order to everyone involved!