Just as we use the word “safer” because no space can be 100% safe for all participants, we also acknowledge that no policy can eliminate 100% of risk and danger for people participating in any event. With that in mind Festival organisers would like to make clear that this policy is a guiding document, one that is live and can be amended as necessary. Festival organisers are open to feedback regarding the Safer Spaces Policy and this can be given by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Every event is a safer space for all participants.
Being a safer space for participants means a number of things:
1. Event content must not discriminate, exclude or perpetuate stigma against its potential participants. Each event, its facilitators and participants must avoid making judgements and/or promoting prejudice about race, sex, gender, sexuality, ability, drug use, mode of sex work, legal status, and mental health. If it is necessary to be exempt from this (for example, a workshop’s content may only be relevant for only cisfemale participants), these stipulations and the reasons for them must be made explicit to festival organisers and will be absolutely clear from the beginning in all promotional material.
2. Privacy and confidentiality of participants is paramount. It will be made clear to participants that no personal or identifying details are ever required for participation in a workshop; that no contribution made by participants at a workshop will be shared outside of it unless consent is clearly and explicitly given; and no recording devices (including cameras) will be used during workshops.
3. Event facilitators must be aware that some content may trigger a negative emotional impact on participants. Any planned event content that may be at all traumatic (including discussions of violence, abuse, suicide) must be made clear to participants prior to the event. It must also be made clear to participants that they can leave the event whenever they want and should debriefing be necessary, festival organisers will arrange this in accordance with our Safer Spaces Policy.
4. The Festival is made up of events that are either sex worker only or open to the public. In terms of ensuring the safety of event participants, public events will be clearly indicated as such. (Further discussion of this below)
5. Festival organisers will ensure that a safer space and team of debriefers will be made available at all events. Participants will be made aware that their involvement is completely voluntary and the right to exit any event plus access to a debriefer will be upheld.
6. Festival organisers are sex workers. As such we also need to ensure our own safety. While we are responsive to concerns individuals have regarding the operation of our festival we will not tolerate abuse or harassment of individual Festival organisers or the collective.
This Festival is a celebration of Sex Work.
Events must reflect this. We want the experience sex workers have at the festival to be a positive one. We know sex work can be hard at times and festival organisers do not want to make invisible these experiences. However, the festival is a constructive and positive space; it is not the right place for working through people's personal issues; it is not the space to attack or critique any individual sex worker.
Each event must...
1. ...affirm the choice to be a sex worker.
2. ...contribute to participants understanding of the diversity of sex work
3. ...acknowledge the difficulty of being a sex worker but give priority to focussing on the skills, character and strategies that overcome these difficulties.
Sex Worker Only and Public Events
The Festival organisers acknowledge that negotiating safety in a sex worker only space is different to negotiating safety at a public event. The festival organisers value the contribution of sex workers and recognise that particular goals of promoting sex worker rights, health and well being can only occur in sex worker only spaces. However, Festival organisers would also like create opportunities for the general public to engage with the perspectives of sex workers. With this in mind the following guiding principles are adopted by Festival organisers:
1. The details of sex worker only events (time and location) will not be publicised in any public document.
2. All events that are open to the public will be made explicitly clear to all participants.
3. Sex worker only events will be promoted in forums that are clearly and explicitly sex worker only networks.
4. No one has the right to compel an individual to produce evidence of their status as a sex worker. However, Festival organisers recognise the need to engage in strategies that ensure sex worker only events are attended by sex workers only. This will be done through promotional strategies that enable a degree of verification . Festival organisers reserve the right to refuse participants attendance of sex worker only events.
Generally, all workshops during the day and social events during the festival will be sex worker only spaces. At this stage the exception to this is the Touching Base Professional Disability Awareness Training. The Touching Base workshop is primarily facilitated by a sex worker but has specific sections that are facilitated by a person with a disability and a qualified occupational therapist, both of whom do not identify as sex workers.
Where a workshop is not sex worker only, this will be made clear in the non-public festival guide.
The art exhibition, public forums, public action and film nights will be public events. The Safer Spaces Policy will be made available at these events and awareness of this will be stated as part of each events formal process.
No participant is compelled to attend any public event if they do not wish, and participation in the festival can be entirely at sex worker only events if the participant wishes. Public events are designed to engage our allies and friends as well as the broader public.
The end of Festival party will be a strictly invite only event. Participants are primarily sex workers, however, some may also bring partners and family. It is the responsibility of sex workers who are bringing guests to the event to ensure that they are familiar with the safer spaces policy. This is not an event for clients or the general public.
Examining our own subtle and not-so-subtle prejudices
If we profess to be concerned about issues such as race, gender and sexuality, we need to live our lives in a way that proactively seeks to subvert prejudice and undermine discrimination. This means treating people equally and acknowledging that everyone has something amazing to contribute. It means not being tokenistic.
We may like to think of the Melbourne Festival of Sex Work as an alternative space where people reject the prejudices associated with ‘mainstream’ anti-sex work values. However, sex worker communities can often carry the same prejudices as the so-called mainstream and we all need to address this. We are part of this broader society. All of us have to challenge our own internalised sex worker stigma. By participating in making the Festival a safer space, we can all learn about how to overcome this stigma.
People attending the Melbourne Festival of Sex Work are asked to be aware of their language and behaviour and to think about whether it might be offensive to others. The Festival is no space for violence, sexual assault, touching people without their consent, being intolerant of someone’s religious beliefs or lack thereof, being creepy, sleazy, racist, ageist, sexist, heterosexist, homophobic, transphobic, cissexist, ableist, classist, sizeist, sex negative or any other behaviour or language that may perpetuate oppression. Please also consider whether anxiety, new environments, being surrounded by new people, drugs, alcohol, etc could blur your ability to gauge how your behaviour is affecting others.
A note to people who aren’t sex workers attending the Melbourne Festival of Sex Work
The Festival strives to create a safer space for sex workers, even at public events. We want people who aren’t sex workers to come along to public events and learn what it takes to support sex workers. The following are some pointers about how to be an ally to our community. Festival organisers would like to acknowledge that these pointers have been adapted from a document originally published by the Sex Worker Outreach Project, Chicago.
1) Don’t assume anything about anyone you may meet at the festival. Don’t assume you know that a person is in the sex industry and their reasons for being there. Some people make a choice to enter this industry because they enjoy it, others may be struggling for money and may feel they have less of a choice.
2) Be Discreet and Respect Personal Boundaries. If you know a sex worker, it’s OK to engage in dialogue with them in private, but respect their privacy surrounding their work in public settings. Don’t ask personal questions such as “does your family know what you do?” If a sex worker is not “out” to their friends, family, or co-workers, it’s not your place to tell everyone what they do.
3) Don’t Judge. Know your own prejudices and realise that not everyone shares the same opinions as you. Whatever you may think about sex work is irrelevant compared to the actual experiences of the person who works in the industry. It’s not your place to pass judgement on how another person earns the money they need to survive.
4) Watch Your Language. Cracking jokes or using derogatory terms such as “hooker”, “whore”, “slut”, or “ho” is not acceptable. While some sex workers have reclaimed these words and use them among themselves, they are usually used to demean sex workers when spoken by outsiders.
5) Address Your Prejudices. If you have a deep bias or underlying fear that all sex workers are bad people and/or full of diseases, then perhaps these are issues within yourself that you need to address. In fact, the majority of sex workers practice safer sex than their peers and get tested regularly.
6) Don’t Play Rescuer. Not all sex workers are trying to get out of the industry or in need of help. Ask them what they need, but not everyone is looking for “Captain Save-A-Ho” or the “Pretty Woman” ending.
7) If you are a client or patron of sex workers, be respectful of boundaries. You’re buying a service, not a person. Don’t ask for real names, call at all hours of the day/night, or think that your favourite sex worker is going to enter into a relationship with you off the clock.
8) Do Your Own Research. Most mainstream media is biased against sex workers and the statistics you read in the news about the sex industry are usually inaccurate. Be critical of what you read or hear and educate yourself on who exactly is transmitting diseases or being trafficked.
9) Respect that Sex Work is Real Work. There’s a set of professional skills involved and it’s not necessarily an industry that everyone can enter into. Don’t tell someone to get a “real job” when they already have one that suits them just fine.
10) Just because someone is a sex worker doesn’t mean they will have sex with you. No matter what area of the sex industry that someone works in, don’t assume that they are promiscuous and willing to have sex with anyone at any time.
11) Be Supportive and Share Resources. If you know of someone who is new to the industry or in an abusive situation with an employer, by all means offer advice and support without being condescending. Some people do enter into the sex industry without educating themselves about what they are getting into and may need help. Despite the situation, calling the police is usually never a good option. Try to find other organizations that are sensitive to the needs of sex workers by contacting the organizations listed below.
12) As you learn the above things, stand up for sex workers when conversations happen. Share your personal stories if you so choose. Don’t let the stigma, bigotry and shame around sex work continue. Remember it’s important that sex workers be allowed to speak for themselves and for allies to not speak for sex workers but to speak with sex workers.
Realise that sex work transcends ‘visible’ notions of race, gender, class, sexuality, education, and identities; sex workers are your sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, lovers, and friends. Respect them!
1) If you wish to proceed with a grievance, directly approach the person whose behaviour has caused you to feel unsafe to try to resolve the issue. Please do so while maintaining safer spaces yourself – refer to section above.
Walk away if you can’t reach a resolution, we don’t endorse individuals aggravating conflicts that exist over differences of opinion. Acknowledge the difference of opinion. Make your opposition known. Find your friends, go to a quiet space and debrief.
2) If unresolved, approach the designated grievance contacts on the Melbourne Festival of Sex Work Collective (will be identifiable during the festival).
3) The collective member will ask you if you have approached the person involved already. If you have not, see step one.
4) The collective will meet daily during Festival of Sex Work and will hear complex and unresolved grievances if necessary. This is an absolutely last step and we encourage individuals to take responsibility for their one-on-one conflicts maturely if possible PRIOR to needing the collective to intervene.
5) Excluding people from Festival Events is an absolute final resort and will only be done by consensus decision of the collective
If you decide to confront a person you have a grievance with, or ask a third party to do so on your behalf, or you have been asked to approach a person on behalf of another, please keep in mind that YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR ACTIONS regardless of your grievance with another person. At no time are you acting on behalf of the collective.
The Festival Collective recognises that some people have ongoing conflict/grievances which have originated in a space outside of the Festival. It is not the role of the Festival, its organisers or this policy to resolve such conflict. Please inform Festival organisers if you feel this may impact on your ability to feel safe whilst attending the Festival. Please be aware that while we will do our best to provide a safer space for all participants, we cannot necessarily mediate all tensions that are brought to our Festival. Again, Festival organisers would like to reiterate, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR ACTIONS.
Distribution of the policy
We want everyone who attends the Melbourne Festival of Sex Work to be aware of this safer spaces policy. This statement will be in the program, reader, website, displayed around the venue and hopefully it will come up in discussions. We will also send this statement to everyone who has contacted us about putting on a workshop and we will put it onto the website. Feel free to alert your friends to the existence of this policy.
We hope that the very existence of this information will assist in the following ways:
- As a visible/constant reminder of everyone’s need to take responsibility for their own behaviour
- To keep the issues fresh in everyone’s minds
- As a reminder that words, body language, actions and behaviour affect other people and make them feel certain ways – a reminder to be aware of other people’s personal boundaries
- To work preventatively
- To follow the Grievance Process
- To take responsibility for your own actions when confronting or addressing a third party with whom you have a grievance.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Festival organisers would like to acknowledge and thank Camp Betty, the Scarlet Alliance and SWOP-Chicago, whose own safer spaces policies and publications have been influential in the creation of the Melbourne Festival of Sex Work Safer Spaces Policy.