Real life superhero vigilantes in New York – the New York Initiative – have decided to step in and have sworn to do everything they can to protect sex workers from the Long Island Serial Killer. They are offering brute-force, no questions asked protection – because they believe police are inadequate
I wrote an email to the New York Initiative - these “real life superheroes” this morning, sharing info about what sex workers and allies have been doing to protect ourselves, including the ask for amnesty that so far hasn’t gotten an official response, except that I do know that the Suffolk County Police Department is doing research on it as a possibility.
I am infinitely frustrated that the story is getting as much traction as it is. Can we not pat the NYI on the head, and instead focus the attention on actual sex workers who are in danger, and useful responses to this issue? The amount of publicity NYI is receiving is a clear message that the perspectives of masked men who want to swoop in and rescue “pretty ladies” are more valid that the perspectives of people who are actually doing sex work and coming up with solutions to keep ourselves safe.
This kind of savior syndrome is conditional too - what if the ladies in question aren’t pretty? or cis? or have other characteristics that don’t make them perfect victims?
Furthermore, why can’t the NYI volunteer their “martial arts skills” and offer self defense trainings, instead of assuming we want strange, well-meaning men up in our business.
Maybe the NYI could use their power and privilege to shame the police on Long Island for their terrible responses, and the fact that they are continuing to arrest sex workers in the area instead of coming up with ways to keep us safe.
To an extent I agree with this. I think that the work that NYI is doing is really wonderful. They do offer self-defense courses, and to the best of my knowledge they have put no specifications upon the gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or physical attractiveness of the women to whom their services are available. Sure it’s a little goofy, but I do think that not only are their intentions good, they are genuinely doing a service to the community.
That being said, Audacia is completely correct in saying that the attention should not go to NYI, and should instead go to the women who are endangered. Focusing on the people rescuing the sex workers, and not the sex workers themselves, is very problematic in that the human beings who should be at the center of this story will fade into the background.
The same media that often suggests that the victims of the Long Island killer deserved their fates, and that they were in a sense ‘asking for it’ by virtue of their chosen careers, is excitedly promoting the NYI. Because according to most mainstream media, sex workers are apparently not people, their hopeful knights in shining armor are more noteworthy and that is not how it should be.