An Open Letter to Lena Dunham’s Lenny Newsletter, on why I cannot work with them as long as Lena Dunham opposes the decriminalization of sex work


Dear Lenny,

Thank you for getting in touch and the kind words on my work.

However, I can’t be involved in any project helmed by Lena Dunham as long as she supports that petition condemning Amnesty International’s decriminalization of sex work.

Many of my closest friends are sex workers.  The roots of my own activism lie in sex worker activism, and when I was young I worked in a legal branch of the sex industry.  Amnesty International’s support of decriminalization is a hopeful, vital thing.  Whether we’re speaking of the Bronx or of Cambodia, police enact violence on sex workers and trafficking victims alike.  They rape, steal from, beat, extort, and arrest both sex workers and trafficking victims. 

Decriminalization is an important step to stopping this.

Undoubtedly, Ms. Dunham believes the petition she signed only calls for the criminalization of clients and managers, not workers.  However, this model, called the Swedish Model. is far from benign.  It thwarts any attempts by sex workers to control their own working conditions.  It leads to stigma, impoverishment, sex workers being evicted from their homes, and sex workers charged with “pimping” when they choose to work together for security. Most importantly, it involves often corrupt, violent police in the lives of women they have a history of enacting violence upon. 

This article by Molly Smith for the New Republic does a great job explaining the problems with the Swedish model.  Ms. Smith is a sex worker in her own right, as well as an activist and writer.

Many famous, renowned actresses signed the anti-Amnesty petition.  However, Ms. Dunham is more than an actress.  She’s a proud, prominent young feminist. Indeed, to many people, she is one of feminism’s most visible faces.  Yet she is taking a political stand that harms and endangers other women around the world.

I urge Ms. Dunham to reconsider her support of this petition, and to listen to the voices of sex workers. Unfortunately, as long as she supports the anti-Amnesty petition, I won’t be able to work on any projects with her.