Sex Workers Anonymous
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Sex Workers Anonymous

Sex Workers Anonymous, formerly Prostitutes Anonymous, is a 12 Step group of men and women who have a desire to leave commercial sex work, and it's aftermath, behind.

Commercial sex work includes prostitution, escorting, pimping, madaming, pornography, stripping, phone sex, adult cam work, or any other arena where you exchanged sex or a sexual activity for money, services or goods (whether a legal activity or not).

We are a worldwide, free, out-patient, anonymous program open to anyone regardless of their age, race, gender, sex, sexual identity, religion, HIV status, or location that has a desire to leave the sex industry.

Sex Workers Anonymous does not feel the problem is with the sex industry in and of itself.  We are a fellowship of people who have a desire to leave the sex industry - period.  We have no opinion on the industry itself - whether it should be legalized or decriminalized or whether it's right or wrong or the people are good or bad.  It doesn't matter about whether or not the sex industry is legal to us anymore than an alcoholic can justify taking that first drink because alcohol is sold legally.   We just want to focus on our desire to leave the sex industry and to adjust to life afterwards.

We are like a fellowship for pill addicts - the medicines themselves may be used for great purposes or misused for drastic results - the pills may be legally prescribed or street drugs.  It doesn't matter - all that matters is they have a desire to stop using.  In SWA - our members have a desire to leave the sex industry and seek us out for help.

The debate about whether or not the sex industry is an addiction is a loop just as there are people who still debate whether alcoholism is truly a disease and those who feel gambling is not an addiction - but a compulsion.  We are not here to say the sex industry is addictive or an addiction.  SWA's members simply have a desire to leave the sex industry.

In order to set up our Program, we had to address a lot of language issues.

One of our deepest desires is to avoid the typical sexism that is associated with the sex industry. Men and women are just as equally affected and involved. Men as well as women are prostitutes, escorts, cam models, pimps, dancers, phone sex operators. Men also know just as well as women what it's like to seek help for these problems and be turned away, laughed at, scorned, judged, and especially what it's like to feel "hopeless". For this reason, all of us as a group who have the desire to be here are simply addressed as "members". All members are welcome in SWA.

A lot of information on the sex industry seems to portray men as always being the "predators" and women always being the "victims". We know that in a more realistic view - women can be predators and men can be just as victimized. Both men and women are raped, abandoned, betrayed, sexually violated, molested, pimped, and beaten. Because of there is no real gender line in these issues - we will use the non-gender specific terms of "predators" and "victims" when discussing these issues.

We also have to address the word "God" as it relates to the Steps and Traditions that are the foundation of this program. Some of us have suffered blows at the end of a stick called "God". Some call their Higher Power by a name other than "God" - while some choose not to have any concept of a God in their program of healing. We are not endorsing or promoting any one view here. On the other hand, we can't change the wording of the 12 Step process that has helped so many people who couldn't find help any way else.

Chemical and/or alcohol abuse is another topic that we should raise. We wish to point out that not all coming to us are coming here because of a bottom caused by chemicals and/or alcohol. Some of us may have a substance abuse problem, or suffer from an addiction, and some won't. Some of our members have never touched a drug or a drink. Others may be finding they are in need of medicine prescribed by a doctor to stay alive.

We do not take any stance on this issue other than to please ask our members to try to attend meetings free of any alcohol or illegal drugs not prescribed by a doctor so we all can benefit from the experience. If you can't come sober - please come anyway to listen for that day.  The issue of whether or not it is appropriate for a member to be using any substance in their daily lives for any reason is between them, their sponsor and a doctor - period.

What do we call ourselves individually is another language issue. In Alcoholics Anonymous - the members do not refer to themselves as a bottle of gin or vodka. In Narcotics Anonymous - the members do not identify themselves as a bag of dope or a gram of coke. In Gamblers Anonymous - they do not identify as a crap table or a slot machine. Our program is a spiritual one. We as members need to keep the focus not on the outside world or job titles - but on the recovery process which is three-fold: mental, physical and spiritual.

In consulting the Oxford Third World Dictionary we find the definition of the word "prostitute" is not limited to someone who sells sex or sexual acts or intercourse for money. It goes on to state the word prostitute also means "given over, devoted, exposed, subjected to something evil, debased by being made common or cheap, to expose, exhibit, subject, or submit to any destructive agency, a person devoted to another, a slave, and one who debases himself for gain".

By calling ourselves a "prostitute" we find this gives us all a common understanding of each other. The word "prostitute" can also identify what we are suffering from long after having quit a job in the sex industry. This term also does not limit itself to one gender, age, race, sex, or include any specific or outside issues.

The world includes millions of men and women and children in some area of sex work both voluntarily or involuntarily, legally and illegally. That is not why we are here. Our common problem and our common feelings are well identified by the full definition of the word "prostitute". For this reason, in our fellowship - we all refer to ourselves as being a "prostitute" whether we choose to be in the sex industry or were coerced.

The last word that was a struggle for us to agree on was how to identify our "time". AA uses the word sobriety. OA uses the word abstinence. The word "time" doesn't really clarify the issue because many members have quit sex work and "abstained' and are "sober" - but find they are still suffering or acting out from sex work when they come to us.

In going back to the dictionary to help us find the right word - we looked up the word "clean". We found some of the definition included "to eliminate or discard what is unwanted; to be rid of dirt, rubbish and impurities; to be free from addiction; devoid of restrictions or encumbrances; free of foreign matter or pollution; not infected; producing relatively little contamination; morally pure, honest or fair; not obscene; to undergo or perform an act of cleaning; free from moral corruption or sinister connections of any kind; remain uninvolved from an immoral or illegal act; to start afresh; free from guilt; to escape without injury; free from that which is useless or injurious" and "complete".

No other word more clearly and completely describes what all of us desire when we come to SWA and what we strive for in our recovery. Clean can be used as a noun or a verb - such as in to "clean" used as a verb or in using it as a noun by referring to an end result of being "clean". For this reason, when identifying the amount of "time" you have - we can all agree as our time here as being "clean".

Our common bond reflected in our language here in SWA is that we are all prostitutes desiring to become clean in a fellowship of which we all are members.

Are you not sure if you have a problem with your relationship to the sex industry?   We have a questionnaire that might help you decide.

Do I Have a Problem?

We know that not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic, nor does everyone working in the sex industry have a problem. Some of you reading this may not be sure if a pattern of addiction exists, so this questionnaire has been included to give you an idea if SWA is a fellowship that can be of help to you.

If you answer "yes" to three or more of these questions, then we might be of help to you.

1. Have you ever lost a very important person in your life, or had them taken away, due to your involvement in the sex industry, and/or your refusal to quit?

2. Have you ever set a quitting date, only to change that date forward, or canceling the idea altogether when the date came?

3. Have you ever been arrested, only to return to sex work immediately upon your release?

4. Do you find that you only get romantically or socially involved with either people who do not know what you do at all, or people who are also involved in the sex industry because it’s "easier than explaining what you do"?

5. Do you feel physically ill while doing what you do in sex work, or right after it’s over?

6. Have you ever sworn "never again" only to go right back to sex work because "things have changed" or told yourself it was "ok just this one more time"?

7. Have you ever tried changing your sex work habits, instead of completely quitting, thinking it was only "that" which was the problem? Example - sworn only to see regulars, or started doing something different like going from prostitution to stripping thinking things would be "different" because at least now you‘re not on the streets?

8. Do you find yourself removing people from your life, or choosing not to include them in your personal life, if they urge you to quit sex work?

9. Do you find yourself having people in your life that you don’t particularly like because they "help you out" with money and/or things that you need?

10. Have you ever placed the completion of a transaction in sex work ahead of your own health and welfare, or that of your family or loved ones? Example - left a small child alone while you turned a trick?

11. Have you ever enrolled in a class, seminar, or vocational school designed to help you quit sex work, only to miss more than one class so you jeopardize completion, or dropped out entirely, because you had "work" to do? Example - maybe even left in the middle of class because a client paged you?

12. Are you finding sex with someone you are presently involved with becoming less enjoyable and more of an "act"?

13. Do you ever have difficulty sleeping because of thoughts of the sex industry, or fear of the truth coming out that you were, or are, in sex work?

14. Do arguments, disappointments, or frustrations give you an uncontrollable urge to go back to sex work?

15. Have you ever performed a sexual act you were not comfortable with, and/or that may have physically hurt you because you "wanted the money"?

16. Have you ever accepted a tip from a client in exchange for not using a condom, or to perform a risky sex act, and told yourself it was ok because "it won’t hurt this time" or "they looked healthy"?

17. Do you spend large amounts of your sex work earnings on "impulse" buys and then afterwards wonder what that was so important to you at the time?

18. Do you hoard your money almost compulsively, or give all of it away, and find yourself not having any money left for essentials?

19. Have you ever been beaten up, or physically hurt by a client or pimp to the point of being hospitalized, or at least requiring medical attention, and then immediately after your release gone back to sex work because "you needed the money"?

20. Have you ever thought of suicide because of being in sex work, or the feeling that you’ll never get out or that you are a bad person because of it?

About the Founder of Sex Workers Anonymous