Let’s Explore The Intersection Of Sex Worker And Reproductive Rights

Good morrow and welcome to this week’s episode of Unscrewed!

This fine Tuesday finds our brave hostess, Jaclyn Friedman, in the trenches with Jenna Torres, program coordinator of the Red Umbrella Project, a peer-led organization in New York that champions sex worker rights, as well as the decriminalization and destigmatization of those working in the sex trades.

A few weeks ago, a major abortion rights’ case (the first one in decades) came up in the Supreme Court — Whole Woman’s Health V. Hellerstedt, directly challenging Texas’s notoriously draconian TRAP law (“targeted regulation of abortion providers”), or HB2. The TRAP law puts onerous regulations on abortion clinics and doctors — regulations other medical clinics are not subjected to — effectively forcing them to close down.

If HB2 goes into effect, the entire state of Texas — which serves as a home to more than 12 million women — will be left with 10 abortion clinics. And of course, those who will suffer the most from these shutterings are the women are already most at risk; low-income women of color in particular use these clinics for their primary care as well. HB2 will guarantee the near impossibility of keeping these womens’ bodies healthy and safe.

As this case rages on, so too does the controversy surrounding sex workers’ rights. Yet the intersection of these infringements on bodily autonomy is rarely discussed. As the 15th annual International Sex Worker Rights day just commenced on March 3, the time felt right to explore these issues in dialogue together.

Jenna discusses being on the front lines of this societal interchange, as a former sex worker, and now as a community organizer. Our health-care system is currently failing sex workers, she says, putting their lives at further risk and perpetuating a system that was designed without their safety in mind.

“When you’re low income, when you’re in poverty, you are going to doctors who take Medicaid, who offer low-cost services. They don’t have the same regard for our bodies as somebody who has money. It’s all about privilege. It’s sad to say, and people don’t have to believe it’s true, but it is what it is.”

Jaclyn and Jenna explore our collective desensitization to bodily violence — politically and literally — as well as the rippling repercussions of health-care providers being undereducated about the issues surrounding sex work, what advocacy is being done to counter it, and the enduring importance of telling your story.


Full new episodes of Unscrewed go live every other Tuesday, with quickiesodes boasting outtakes, advice for listeners who send in their sex/uality questions, and other delectable tidbits airing in between.

Have burning quandaries of your own? Tweet @jaclynf (use #unscrewed) or drop her a line at unscrewed@jaclynfriedman.com. And yes! You can even use your handy-dandy smartphone, personal computer, or laptop and record yourself asking your question; she may just include it in the next episode.


Lead image: flickr/ Jennifer C.

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