Author explores sex workers’ impact on gay rights, other cultural movements
Historian, activist and author Melinda Chateauvert will give a talk based on her book, “Sex Workers Unite: A History of the Movement from Stonewall to SlutWalk,” at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 28, in Room 014 of Olin Science Center.
The book’s subtitle provides a hint of the connections Chateauvert makes between seemingly disparate movements: the 1969 Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village, considered to be the beginning of the U.S. gay rights movement, and a recent worldwide marching crusade against rape culture and victim-blaming. Chateauvert uses these and other touch points to highlight the unseen — or even ignored — efforts by sex workers to further the progress of these types of seismic cultural shifts.
A review in Lambda Literary noted, “ ... mainstream gay and lesbian historians — as well as activist groups themselves — marginalized, ridiculed, or left out the major contributions of sex workers to the Stonewall Riots, gay and lesbian liberation movements, and AIDS awareness campaigns. Predominantly white and cis-bodied, leaders of these movements believed that no one would want to hear from transgender prostitutes or other disadvantaged groups.”
Chateauvert also addresses efforts by sex workers to organize for legalization and regulation of their trade.
Jen Manion, associate professor of history and director of Connecticut College's LGBTQ Resource Center, said of Chateauvert, “She shows how sex workers are also activists and organizers and healers. Anyone attending the event will think of sex workers in a more holistic and humane way, and understand the structures that work to marginalize and delegitimize them. Sex workers have been central in the struggle for LGBTQ equality, women's rights and everyone's sexual freedom, as the title suggests.”