Charlotte Carter – Project Coordinator
I am really excited to introduce the Our Voices book to you all. Facilitated by Basis Yorkshire and funded by the Rosa Fund, this book contains a variety of stories and other perspectives from sex workers in Leeds. I wanted to briefly share our intentions behind making the book and its respective importance in challenging the stigma and stereotypes about sex work.
We did start out with many ideas for its content, that largely stemmed from our commitment to providing an independent platform for the voices of our service users to be heard in their own words. Sex work is a social issue that is often talked about – it constantly features in popular culture and the news. Yet commonly, the very people who constitute the sex work industry are not included; nor is the diversity of the sex work industry accounted for. Creating this book provided an opportunity to challenge this norm. We’ve got poetry, 10 incredible stories and artwork; all the way through the book as ell, we’ve created our take on the iconic ‘tart cards’. Some of the adult team at Basis also ran groupswith sex workers at HP Newhall, around different themes; a selection of the women’s quotes have been included in the book.hroughout the pages of this book, the stories tell us of first experiences of sex work, offer us opinions and divulge funny moments. They share with us the varying aspects of their lives, negating the reductive nature of the sex worker identity. They also contain thoughts on the law, stigma and sexual health, along with messages for the public, practitioners and other sex workers.
Collectively, these perspectives are a testament to the diversity of the sex work industry. They help us to better understand this diversity. Of course, they are by no means representative of all women’s experiences, nor do they account for the men and transgender men and women who also work in the sex work industry. What these perspectives do offer however, is some of the best proof we have to challenge to the stigma and stereotypes prevalent around sex work.
This book has been printed to be read by as many people as we can get it in front of – sex workers, members of the public, practitioners and perhaps even politicians! I feel that we are really privileged that each of these 12 women have shared their respective stories and poetry. It is here to raise awareness, to dispel myths and misrepresentation, and of course to be added to the many other voices calling for the decriminalisation of sex work in the UK!
One of the themes in this book is the tart cards that we have created. They are symbolic of the imagery of the cards, yet their respective content challenges their original format with quotes from the women that Basis Sex Work Project works with. These tart cards are I think, extremely powerful in their nature. They intend to shock, to humour and to inform. I want to assert how important it is that the context of the quotes in each of these tart cards is retained as far as possible. Out of respect for the women who told these stories, we must acknowledge the value in reading the stories alongside many of the quotes, recognising they are part of a bigger story.
On a more personal note – I just wanted to say what a pleasure it has been to put this book together. It has been an amazing learning experience as well! It felt a large responsibility to ensure I did the stories justice, especially as I personally think it is really brave of each of the contributors. From an editorial perspective, we have stuck as closely as possible to the words of the women who told their stories as they have been told to us; particularly valuing their insight. In my eyes, this book has been about creating a ‘safe space’ to include the voices we most need to listen to, whilst fighting for sex worker rights, changes in law and policy and challenging stigma and prejudice. All of this aside, these perspectives speak for themselves. Why not get yourself a copy and take a read?
The Our Voices book and A4 posters of selected tart cards are available to buy on Etsy here! Please feel free to share any thoughts or any photos of the book on social media, using the hashtag #OurVoicesBook.
A massive thank you to all of the adult team at Basis for their invaluable support recording stories with the women and assisting with the editing process; and of course to Amber Wilson, who has been an incredible support throughout the entire process. We are also so grateful to Dr Kate Lister from Whores of Yore for her contribution and to Rosa Fund for the grant. Most of all, we are indebted to our contributors, the 12 women who told their stories, wrote poetry and artwork.
Lastly, a couple of disclaimers: Basis does not necessarily endorse all the opinions and perspectives within Our Voices. We are committed to maintaining the anonymity of our services across all of our work and wanted to issue a reminder of this to everyone who reads the book