“[Chateauvert's] portraits of individual activists and advocacy groups are well drawn, proving that humanization through story, not philosophical debates about personhood and privacy, will win this campaign . . . Chateauvert makes a strong case that 'engaging in sexual commerce should not be grounds for disenfranchisement.'” —Publishers Weekly
“The breadth of the material impressively commemorates the movement’s decades long struggle.” —Kirkus Reviews
"This is an important book—not only for understanding the history of the movement but also for debunking myths about sex workers." —Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former US surgeon general
“From the movement's beginning with street-walking cop-fighting trans women at Stonewall at Compton's Cafeteria through feminist betrayal and the AIDs crisis all the way to today's sex work activists and artists who make this labor visible, Sex Workers Unite is a fact-driven, street-smart history. This book is crucial.” —Michelle Tea, author of Valencia
“In this definitive history, Chateauvert recounts the many challenges and successes of the sex workers’ rights movement, and shows us how much farther we have to go to guarantee everyone’s fundamental rights to sexual privacy and self-determination.” —Anthony D. Romero, executive director, American Civil Liberties Union
“With a historian’s eye for the illuminating detail and the street fighter’s passion for her cause, Melinda Chateauvert offers a sassy journey through the worlds of 'Working Girls and Boys,' black, brown, and white, trans, gay, and straight. Against rescuers and abolitionists, Sex Workers Unite recovers the collective action and labor organizing of sex workers for better conditions, living wages, cultural freedom, and social justice.” —Eileen Boris, Hull Professor of Feminist Studies, University of California Santa Barbara and co-editor of Intimate Labors: Cultures, Technologies, and the Politics of Care
A verbose chronology of the perpetual demonization of prostitution. "Human rights for sex workers reframes decriminalization," writes grass-roots sexuality and gender activist Chateauvert (Center for Africana Studies/Univ. of Pennsylvania) in her historical account of sex workers, who, in her opinion, are long overdue to receive universal respect and justice. Combining decades of documentation and personal experience teaching university-level social justice course work, Chateauvert presents her treatise via a rapid-fire avalanche of focal events, key players and historically relevant advocates for social change. Though the direction of the dense chapters is somewhat rudderless, the breadth of the material impressively commemorates the movement's decadeslong struggle. The author spotlights many historic activist groups, such as ACT UP and anti-entrapment organization COYOTE, then moves on to address the patriarchal resistance and identity politics of the 1970s, AIDS awareness and prevention efforts, and the galvanization of the pornography and sex-for-hire industry toward being recognized as a hyperprofitable, bona fide business. Yet the struggle for legitimate recognition continues, as does the ridicule associated with those who make sex work their livelihood, Chateauvert soberly notes. Negative repercussions of the trade proliferate and manifest in pernicious prejudices like "slut-shaming," which implies the victim of a sex crime deserved it, and "whorephobia," a denigrating form of sex panic. While consistently inclusive of all manner of sex-trade workers, the author primarily focuses on the plights of lesbians, the transgendered population and feminists, though she shows a particular disdain for "straight" pro-monogamists and those who believe a prostitute's self-image is the key to their victimization. Chateauvert examines more contemporary visibility activities, including SlutWalk, a multi-city empowerment event meant to peacefully demand that sex workers be destigmatized and respected as a humane community. Overly professorial in tone, yet it sufficiently delivers the importance and impact of sexual equality for all.