It’s time we turned the tide on how we talk about sex workers.
The right words can make a huge difference. They can help enforce self-worth, respect, and humanity — especially when it comes to the lives of sex workers. Words count.
The Safe Harbour Outreach Project (SHOP) exists to advocate for the human rights of sex workers in and around St. John’s, and across Newfoundland and Labrador. The women we serve have continuously identified that stigma creates huge barriers to accessing their basic human rights. The collective fight for the human rights of sex workers is a new phenomenon in this province and there are still many challenges to changing the discourse and public perception around the people who engage in sex work.
June 14 has been recognized as a National Day of Action for Sex Worker Rights in Canada to combat dangerous laws and narratives, and today we launch ‘Words Count,’ a bold awareness campaign to make people stop and take stock of the language used to stigmatize sex workers and deny women their agency. Whore, hooker, prostitute, slut. Would you want to be called these words? These and many other weighted words bear down on women in our community every day – women who are parents, volunteers, students, neighbours, teachers, artists, safer sex experts, advocates, and members of our community.
Heather Jarvis, SHOP’s Program Coordinator, on sex work stigma:
“Sex work stigma has real world consequences. It is used to justify actions that infringe on the human rights of sex workers every day, making women’s lives more hazardous and unjust, and at its worst making sex workers disposable. The people we work with are intelligent, resourceful, critical, funny, kind, loving, creative, and come with skills and knowledge. Sex workers are a part of our community. Sex workers belong in our community.”
What can you do?
Challenge discrimination, stereotypes and misconceptions against sex workers, their families and partners. Download and print our campaign poster and help spread awareness in the community. Start a conversation about what you can do to support sex workers in your city. Purchase a ‘Words Count’ t-shirt, with proceeds going to support the work of SHOP. Watch the ‘Words Count’ video below and share it on social media with #EndTheStigmaNL.
CW: This video contains harsh language around sexism, sexuality, stereotyping, and violence and might not be suitable for all ages or individuals. Please engage with it at your own pace.
Vanessa V., local sex worker, on the ‘Words Count’ campaign:
“This is a perfect collage of the stigma that sex workers get because this is how we’re treated by society in general – overwhelmingly negative and with judgment, putting us down as if we’re ‘nobody’ or making us into a ‘bombshell,’ ‘trophy’ stereotype. Ultimately, we’re still made to be a punchline and not seen for the real people we are. The people who say these sorts of things aren’t sex workers, they aren’t my clients, they’re people who are looking at sex work from the outside.”
Take responsibility for your words and your actions. Help end the stigma. Support the Safe Harbour Outreach Project.
Safe Harbour Outreach Project