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Dear Oakland Occupy Patriarchy: You are scaring me.

Date: June 14, 2012

Sex worker activists and others are protesting H.E.A.T. Watch anti-trafficking conference this week, because it is a conference of law enforcement agencies and its allied “anti-trafficking” groups to promote further criminalization as a solution to the complex issue of commercial sex trafficking of young people.

Among the activist groups protesting the conference was Oakland Ocupy Patriarchy, whose “disruption” of the said conference has resulted in at least one arrest. But in the statement announcing their protest/disruption, they prominently use a quote from my article in Bitch magazine, identifying me as a “sex worker and activist” (they also have another quote later in the post):

OOP screen capture

However, in Bitch article I do not identify myself as a sex worker. While I do not make secret of my history in the sex trade, I use discretion as to when and where I refer to myself as a sex worker for my safety–not just safety from violence, but from prejudice, discrimination, and police surveillance.

People involved in Occupy movement more than anyone else know that the law enforcement is closely observing what they are doing, and they will certainly read statements they post on their official website. They should also know that identifying individuals as “sex worker” publicly, even if the information is already available elsewhere, would pose extra threats to their safety and livelihood. It is especially threatening when the sex worker is associated with a quote that is critical of the law enforcement on a website that discusses occupation, disruptions and direct actions.

This is the kind of incident that makes me distrust the Occupy movement, with its white boy sensibilities and priorities, despite the participation of wonderful women and queer/trans people of color, and even as they intend to actively fight the patriarchy. I would also add that it reminded of me how I was grabbed, physically restrained, and sexually harassed by two white men at Occupy Oakland last November, and nobody stepped in to do anything (after pestering me about having sex with them, they finally let me go and told me “I was just joking”–haha, funny).

I appreciate the fact that Oakland Occupy Patriarchy recognizes that the law enforcement is exploiting the serious problem of commercial sexual exploitation of youth (CSEY) to further the militarization of our society and profits of the prison industrial complex. I appreciate that they are protesting the conference in support of sex workers’ rights groups. I’m just frustrated that many of Occupy activists do not seem to “get” the amount of fear people in the sex trade are in every day, and do not seem to get that they don’t get it.

Update 06/15/2012: It appears that Oakland Occupy Patriarchy has removed my quote from its website. I appreciate that, although I wish they had thought about it beforehand. For the record, I do not object to having my work quoted; the Bitch article is a published work and I have no problem with it being used by other people. I object to being identified as a “sex worker” when I did not label myself as such in the context, and especially so when people are quoting me to justify their potentially illegal activities like direct action and disruption.


  1. For Hoes, by hoes. Against H.E.A.T. Watch and toward sex worker revolt.
    June 13, 2012

    Every day we are at war with politicians and police, their collaborators and apologists. Today is unique, because we get to do it in public. And we know how to give one hell of a performance.

    We role play with federal judges. We spank senators with wooden paddles. We massage prostates inside the anuses of lobbyists. We wake neighbors with the thudding of headboards while fucking lawyers, doctors, corporate executives, union organizers, detectives, campaign directors, the list goes on. Point being: we’ve seen these mother fuckers at their finest. We’re practically on the government’s payroll. These poor bastards couldn’t give two fucks about trafficked children. And no, there are NO good cops.

    If Nancy O’Malley and Jean Quan are pimps, then the non-profits, religious groups, and state institutions (such as Child Protective Services, among others), are their little money makers. In an attempt to hypnotize the public, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley “in partnership with The SAGE Project and Shared Hope International,” look to increase surveillance, develop sophisticated policing strategies, and raise incarceration rates by tugging at the foundational heart strings of our lives: violence and exploitation.

    The state wages war against markets that they cannot manage or profit from. They’re not interested in protecting those who are sacrificed to the dark trades of guns and drugs and human beings. But they have much incentive to ensure that those people are rehabilitated just enough to run the machines of their monster economy, paid or unpaid. If they cannot be rehabilitated, they’re left to struggle through the exclusion of a life of crime, killed, or condemned to line the pockets of nasty bankers who invest in prisons. Oh yeah–sucked plenty of banker dick as well.

    We are unfit for the moralistic duties of citizenship, the reformist projects of legislation or “volunteer efforts”. We’re not just bitter because the social services and rehabilitation programs can’t cure our emotional and economic poverty. We’re sick of being pimped by rehabs, abused by police and their justice system. We’re sick of being regarded as disposable cum rags when we refuse to cooperate with the law. We’re hungry for a life worth living.

    We are great performers, but one thing is certain: They are in control of this shit show. Not us. Today we set the stage for something much different.

    Beyond the legal confines of this circus that is the H.E.A.T. Watch conference, there is a world of lawless ones. Networks of prostitutes and other exploited people exist that attempt to support each others’ emotional and physical well being as well as material livelihood. It is our belief that these networks of care are more than capable of forming networks of vengeance such that no john would dare to assault or fool any one of us; networks of hookers and other criminals so effective in retaliation that police are too afraid to arrest prostitutes, and judges too terrified to convict. Through the self organization of whores and rent boys and parents and divas and bitches and sugar babies and loved ones, we are capable of destabilizing entire supply and demand chains of human exploitation – and all the horrors of capitalism.



    Comment by Sweet Like Hookerz — June 17, 2012 @ 2:23 pm

  2. Occupy is the new Crimethinc.

    A bunch of white punk kids (presumably non-sex workers) trying to pick fights with the Oakland police does absolutely nothing to help actual sex workers, and nothing to counter the claims of the anti-prostitution lobby. I’m no fan of the police or the government or prisons, but who expects to be taken seriously by the mainstream if their rhetoric is a bunch of throwback about “the pigs,” “WE WILL FUCK YOU UP,” and “Let’s shut this fucker down”?

    How embarrassing to all real sex workers and sex workers’ rights advocates.

    Comment by Furry Girl — June 17, 2012 @ 9:26 pm

  3. Actually Furry Girl, while Occupy movement especially after the nationwide takedown of encampments appears to be dominated by the non-sex worker “white punk kids” you mention, my understanding is that there was a significant participation of sex workers and people in the sex trade in this particular demonstration. In fact, I have been told that many of them would meet (or have met in the past) the criteria for “trafficked victim” that the conference is ostensibly intending to protect.

    I agree with your criticisms of this demonstration in that I don’t feel that it was effective counter-action against the increasing surveillance and criminalization of our lives and it might end up simply fueling the backlash against us. Sex worker allies definitely must learn to do a better job to ensure that their actions are actually helping sex workers.

    But anarchism and survival sex are both elements of street youth culture, and there are significant overlaps. While I personally do not like how this action went, I also don’t support the mainstream sex worker movement’s silencing of street youth rebellion in the name of respectability (“to be taken seriously by the mainstream”), even when they are not particularly productive, because many of these youth and young adults have been in the sex trade. After all, mainstream does not target us and kill us because we aren’t communicating better; they just target and kill us.

    Comment by emigrl — June 17, 2012 @ 10:44 pm

  4. Wow, way to rebut things I’ve never implied. I’m anti-“anarchism” and trying to “silence street youth”? Though it probably doesn’t matter to you and the image of me that you want to debate, I was myself homeless as a teenager (though not a sex worker at the time), and I’m the last person who has some kind of anti-street youth agenda. My own political views have been informed by anarchist thinkers, which is precisely why I reject lifestyle “anarchist” Crimethinc/Occupy kids who think that “the revolution” can only be brought about by partying and self-indulgence.

    And yes, being taken seriously by the mainstream is the most important thing any of us should be working on. I know that bums out people whose politics hinge on transgression for the sake of transgression, but there is no such thing as successful social change that has ever happened without “mainstream” acceptance. I know that shitting on “the mainstream” is of central importance to lots of “activists,” but sex workers as a marginalized group are not going to achieve respect, human rights, and decriminalization by refusing to participate in the political process and spending our energy trying to alienate the public by coming across like insane people who just want to fuck shit up.

    Comment by Furry Girl — June 17, 2012 @ 11:17 pm

  5. […] last week—Emi Koyama, who writes extensively on anti-trafficking and anti-prostitution campaigns, responds: …in the statement announcing their protest/disruption, [Occupy Oakland Patriarchy] […]

    Pingback by Occupy Oakland Patriarchy outing people in the sex trade? | postwhoreamerica — June 18, 2012 @ 8:21 am

  6. […] An important follow-up to the demonstration that activists organized under the banner of Occupy Oakland Patriarchy held outside an anti-prostitution conference in Oakland last week—Emi Koyama, who writes extensively on anti-trafficking and anti-prostitution campaigns, responds: […]

    Pingback by Melissa Gira Grant | Occupy Oakland Patriarchy outing people in the sex trade? — July 17, 2014 @ 11:03 am

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