Introduce yourself! Who are you and what is your role at Urban Justice Center's Sex Workers Project?
My name is Zola Bruce, I am the Director of Communications for the Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center. My focus is to amplify the voices of sex workers and especially BIPOC, TGNC and migrant sex workers whose lives are treated as dispensable. Everyone deserves the right to work the jobs that they want and need to survive.
What brought you to/inspired you to dedicate your life to advocating for sex worker's rights?
Having lived in Amsterdam and Berlin, I was able to do migrant sex work, specifically BDSM and film work, as a freelance job. Living in consent-based cultures that didn't vilify adult consensual sex work made sex work safer, enjoyable and a viable option to making a living. When I moved back to the US I realized that shame and stigma causes more death due to the lack of protection that sex workers experience in a 'rape-based culture'. I am fortune to have a career that aligns with my full self. Because sex work is criminalized, I was fearful of anyone finding out that I am in film and actively do BSMD work, because then I wouldn't be able to hold another job. Working at Sex Workers Project is empowering as it allows me to use my graduate degree in social work and communications skills to amplify the voices of people in my community.
What is one of the biggest misconceptions in your eyes that people still have about sex work?
One of the biggest misconceptions is that all sex workers are deprived, unhealthy and uneducated. We are multi-faceted healers, educators, therapists, lawyers, doctors and exist in all fields and walks of life. Sex work is an industry, but media has angled sex work in ways that are not representative of the breadth of our work.
What are you working on right now that everyone should be aware of?
The Sex Workers Project started a new docuseries that is by and for sex workers that speaks to our real experiences including all aspects of our work and how it impacts out lives. Sex(ual) Healing was our first documentary focused on the 'healing powers' of sex work both for the sex worker and their clients. This documentary was well received by the public and was accepted by Newfest, Berlin Porn Film Festival, and Excentrico Festival in Chile, thus far. We are currently working on our second film which is focused on sex worker families. The purpose of this series is not only to educate society but to change the trajectory of our conversations around sex and sexuality.
In your experience of advocating for sex workers rights we have seen that cannabis reform has been an important topic as well. Can you outline for us why you see cannabis reform as an important change to supporting your advocacy work for sex workers rights?
The criminalization of both sex work and cannabis has increased targeted arrests to BIPOC and TGNC folx specifically which continues to feed into racism, sexism, transphobia and homophobia. In order to work against oppression in our society it is important to speak out against injustices that further our struggle. There is no proof that sex work, nor cannabis use in in itself has contributed to crime, but I believe that targeting sex workers and people who smoke cannabis in turn is criminal.
Is there something that you would like everyone to take away from this?
Cannabis is a herbal way to enhance life experience, is medicinal, and supports sex workers as we like to have our own chill moments before, during and after work. It is one of the most safe, satisfying, and natural ways to tap into creativity and exploration, and since sex work is an artistic job it can aid with inspiration, connection and passion, which can enhance our work.