Pulse Magazine


ANSWER Society Gathers Sex Workers at Edmonton Event

Pictured: Sex educator Rae Szereszewski at National Sex Workers Assembly in Edmonton.

ANSWER Society (Advocacy Normalizing Sex Work through Education and Resources Society) hosted 190 sex workers, advocates, academics, family members and others for its first in-person National Sex Workers Assembly, held from May 2-5 in Edmondon, Canada.

“Attendees engaged in open and honest dialogue, exploring the real challenges faced by an industry unjustly criminalized and heavily stigmatized and highlighting how decriminalization would lead to greater safety, dignity and rights for all community members,” the organization said in a press statement. “The conference provided a vital platform for sex workers’ voices to be heard, promoting respect, recognition and understanding that honored their perspectives and needs.”

“Through solidarity and mutual aid, we are working towards creating a world where all individuals have the agency to make choices about their bodies, their work and their lives, regardless of their background or profession,” said Mona Forya, president of ANSWERS. The Assembly featured themes of community building and storytelling meant to bring the sex worker community together to share their experiences and build a stronger, more united community.

“The Assembly was a profoundly transformative experience for myself and countless participants,” said Jade Malone, who served on the “When Work and Family Collide” panel at the event. “Through the exchange of knowledge, ideas and personal stories, the Assembly empowered us to embrace our authentic selves. It was truly remarkable to witness a space filled with empathy and acceptance, particularly for marginalized individuals who often endure discrimination and oppression.”

The Assembly also welcomed 65 virtual attendees from across Canada, all committed to supporting and empowering the sex work community. The conference is part of a larger project funded by Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE) to support a feminist response and recovery from the impacts of COVID-19 through systemic change.

Programming catered to attendees of all backgrounds, with content delivered in both English and French with a range of workshops covering topics such as “The harmful impact of sex work criminalization on mental health,” “Managing work-life balance,” “Navigating taxes” and “Reflections on the past and future of the industry.” Renowned figures included University of Victoria Sociology Professor Emeritus Cecilia Benoit, Canada’s Queen of Burlesque Judith Stein and sex educator and sexuality coach Rae Szereszewski delivered keynote speeches.

“For many of us, the event was a rare opportunity to be our true selves and connect with others without fear of judgment or stigma,” said Szereszewski, who also noted that “the inclusive atmosphere created during the conference was incredibly healing for many attendees.”

Organizers said the assembly also served as a “platform for collecting valuable insights from individuals within the sex industry, contributing to the development of an inclusive educational resource tool aimed at addressing systemic oppression.” This tool will provide essential information including strategies for risk reduction and overcoming barriers to safer work. Anticipated to launch in early summer, the resource tool will be made widely available to sex worker-led organizations, academia and other key stakeholders.

Those who were unable to attend may access ANSWERS’ Sex Work Is Work Bias Prevention Training resource on its site. The organization’s podcast is another useful resource for continued learning about sex work and related issues.

For more information, visit ANSWERS.org and follow the organization on FacebookInstagramLinkedIn and Twitter.

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