The Daily Beast

The Vice-Loathing Reverend and the Sex Workers Who Took San Francisco by Storm in 1917

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Trump’s presidency was bad for sex workers. SESTA/FOSTA erased the platforms we used to schedule and screen clients. ICE agents joined police officers to use “anti-trafficking” rhetoric to justify their militarization and expanded surveillance. Sex workers were among a long list of people excluded from government relief as we were targeted, shadowbanned, and barred from doing web-based work. And earlier this month white supremacist militia groups and conspiracy theorists weaponized an old story about sex slavery to help justify an attempted coup. It’s been a very scary four years for all of us and I wish I believed that the nightmare would be over soon.

But as a history nerd and host of The Oldest Profession Podcast, I’m worried that we are set up to repeat the harsh lessons of history and to again conflate harsh criminal penalties with justice, and sex work with trafficking.

On Jan. 25, 1917, sex workers in San Francisco marched to the Central Methodist Church to meet with Rev. Paul Smith, who had organized a campaign to rid and protect the city from vice. This was the first sex worker-led protest in the U.S.

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