Sex workers organise alternative gynaecology workshop

Latin America Regional Correspondent

Using WhatsApp groups and other virtual networks, independent sex workers in Mexico organised a workshop with two main goals: to build community and to learn things that mainstream gynaecology often hides.

In a queer squat (which used to be a brothel before they were outlawed in Mexico City) of a popular neighbourhood, close to a hotel frequented by local sex workers, Klau Kinky, who describes herself as a ‘Gynepunk sudaca techno-witch’, led the workshop last week. This is a group interview conducted at the end of the workshop.

Why did you attend?

“Visiting a doctor, any doctor, usually becomes a gynaecological talk when you say you are a sex worker, even if your illness is in your eye or you have burning throat. So, with good reason, talking to the gynaecologist often becomes uncomfortable. It was very important to have the right place to talk about our bodies with our sisters”.

How was the workshop announced?

“Many of us are in WhatsApp groups only for sex workers. We don’t all know each other, but somehow we take care of each other and we are on the watch in case some buddy needs something or warns that she is in trouble. So, using those groups, the members of AMETS made the invitation.”

What was it about?

"Starting with the history of gynaecology, we learned that our (female) urethral glands, paraurethral glands, minor glands and female prostate, have been, first ignored, and later named by white privileged men using their last names. The anatomical figures used in schools do not include the complete clitoris, for instance. It was great to take those men out of our bodies. They should have never been there.

We also saw drawings that scientists made from enslaved women and sex workers, with the intention to “contribute to science”. They were killed around 1840 when they were pregnant or had a gynaecological disorder. This says a lot about how women’s body has been seen as loot. How come a man can say that he discovered the clitoris? The clitoris, the same as America, has always been there. Nobody discovered them.

We also learned how to make our own lubricant, and ovules to reduce irritation and to heal, which is empowering, because we no longer have to enrich companies that profit from our sexuality."

Why was it important?

"We were provided with gynaecological devices that we had only seen in medical clinics. It was amazing to see my own cervix for the first time, and to share the view with my sisters! It was also wonderful that we got to know more sex workers. The workshop helped me in my process of decolonising my body and take care better of myself without the violent interventions of doctors.

Now I have more theoretical and practical knowledge to share with other sex workers.

Regardless of the wonderful knowledge acquired, this workshop had a political importance, because sex workers are building new ways of being informed, safe and united, without having to appeal to institutions, corporations, or even authorised science. It is also good news that sex workers that work through the internet have built communication channels to look out for each other, knocking down the usage of being isolated and individualistic.

We do not deny that hegemonic medicine can be useful, but most of the time, when you don’t need a big intervention, it is good to have the option of handle it yourself. Autonomy can support all the aspects of life”.