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Community Based Experiences

"I have worked with the sex worker community in San Francisco for over 10 years.  Over the years I have worked in a variety of sex work venues, including stripping and legal prostitution in several Nevada brothels, escorting/internet dating and street walking in San Francisco, and in Los Angeles I worked as a stripper, taxi dancer, massage parlor worker and street walker.  I have been a community member of the St. James Infirmary, a free medical clinic for sex workers, since late 1999.  In 2002 I became a staff member at the clinic when I started volunteering as an intake and peer counselor.  In August 2006, I became the Executive Director for the St. James Infirmary.  In the 18 months prior to becoming the E.D. for St. James, I was the Outreach Coordinator where I conducted weekly outreach in the Polk, Tenderloin and Mission districts of San Francisco in addition to outreach in the strip clubs of San Francisco.  As part of my studies I recently completed a community health assessment of oral health care services for pregnant prisoners at Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, California as a practicum project for Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.

I completed this pilot health assessment of exotic dancers in San Francisco as an unpaid 200 hour internship project for my Masters in Public Health program at San Francisco State University. The costs for incentives for the dancers and tuition for this project were paid for exclusively by me; the cost to generate copies of this report were paid for by me and by individual contributions from my friends, family, co-workers and sex worker community members via a PayPal account.  Thanks to everyone for your support and confidence in my work.  My former outreach activities in the strip clubs of San Francisco in addition to my work with the sex worker community over the last 10 years enabled me to gain access to exotic dancers in strip clubs for this assessment. I would like to thank all the dancers who took time out of their busy lives to participate in this assessment.  I would also like to thank Alix Lutnick of the UCSF SWEAT project for her insight and feedback on this assessment process and final report. I would like to give additionally thanks to Victoria Quijano (SFSU), Carol Leigh (Center for Sex and Culture/BAYSWAN), Johanna Breyer (St. James/EDA/UCSF), and all the staff at the St. James Infirmary for supporting me during my work on this project."


For the last two years, the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women (COSW) has been hearing testimony from former and current dancers about the current working conditions of strip clubs.  There has been a tremendous amount of disagreement between former and current dancers about the working conditions of strip clubs.  While the majority of current dancers state conditions in the strip clubs are fine, some former dancers say that risk for sexual assault, HIV/STI transmission, illegal stage fees imposed by strip clubs and coerced prostitution are primary health concerns for dancers.  In an attempt to discover if the claims of former dancers are applicable to current dancers, a health assessment was conducted with current exotic dancers.  Thirteen women (13) were interviewed using a structured survey with key qualitative questions.  Results revealed that the majority of dancers did not think risk of HIV/STI transmission, fear of sexual assault or the existence of private booths are a work related health risk.  Nearly half of the sample thought that stage fees were or might be a work related health risks. The lack of healthcare, the shoes that dancers wear, standing on their feet all day, the number of shifts dancers work a week, not making enough money, cleanliness and location of the club, customer harassment, and being treated badly by other people because of what they do were reported as work related health risk by the majority of exotic dancers in this sample.
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