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Sex in the Sun City

Official+flyer+of+ELSA.+Photo+courtesy+of+ELSA.
Official flyer of ELSA. Photo courtesy of ELSA.

Editor’s Note: For safety purposes, the interviewees have provided The Prospector with aliases by which they will be referred to.

When it comes to community work and support, El Paso produces aid in abundance for its members and those seeking refuge. Despite the city protecting the different pockets of culture it contains, some groups remain vulnerable to negative stigmas and the state.  

The Erotic Laborers Solidarity Alliance of El Paso (ELSA) is an organization that provides harm reduction for consensual adult sex workers within the borderland. They provide multiple resources and mutual aid for consensual adult sex workers as well as the general population, but their work is mainly centered around decriminalizing consensual adult sex work in the region. 

Cofounders Bridgette and Colette met through a mutual love for peer-to-peer work especially revolving around consensual adult sex work. Bridgette reached out to The Sex Worker Outreach Project, a national organization, and was connected to Colette. Thus, starting their journey in September 2022 with ELSA. 

“One thing is we’ve started a petition and we’re trying to get as many signatures as possible. The goal of the petition is to stop the prosecution of consensual adult sex workers,” Colette said. “And we’ve been figuring out strategizing going to the city council and speaking with them and seeing who we can get on our side and get behind us.” 

Colette said that in protecting consensual adult sex workers, more room is left for law enforcement to focus their resources on victims of sex trafficking.  

“That really just means that people aren’t going to be criminalized for doing this consensually anymore and that actually helps people who are being trafficked because then we’re not colluding the two, we’re not colluding all sex work with sex trafficking,” Colette said. 

Bridgette notes how costly housing people arrested for consensual adult sex work is as well.  

“It costs the city $180 dollars a day to house a prisoner. And I think the bond is usually set at around $1000,” Bridgette said. “And I was looking at the county records and a lot of the people that are arrested spend about seven days until they are released on PR bond.” 

While ELSA works solely on providing health and safety information for those in need, they have also organized fundraising efforts for mutual aid and even held a vigil for International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Additionally, they host self-defense classes for consensual adult sex workers and allies alike. 

Still, getting others to help organize can also be difficult with the presence of Fort Bliss, Border Patrol and police.  

“(There’s a) hesitancy to get involved with us and I think about this being a really militarized, pro-cop, I mean all of America is pro cop,” Colette said. “But it’s because it’s a border city there’s just so much law enforcement right here and I feel like that creates a lot of fear.” 

Even when adult sex work is entirely consensual, it is surrounded by negative stigmas and stereotypes due to the representation it is given through various media platforms. Colette recounts how ELSA would like to step into public education to help destigmatize harmful tropes like the profession being tied to things like drugs, poor childhoods and violence. 

“Of course, that’s true sometimes, but there’s a whole spectrum just like any other job,” Colette said. “And just like any other job under capitalism it’s going to be exploitative because that’s what capitalism is.” 

However, consensual adult sex work contributes to communities across the nation in various ways.Whether it relates to boundaries and consent or creates safe spaces to explore sexualities, the cofounders of ELSA detail some of the brighter aspects of their profession. 

“I’m giving people a safe place to experience pleasure. And it’s all about consent too,” Colette said. “Doing sex work has taught me a lot about consent and in my work, I have way better boundaries than I do in my personal life.” 

“I think that sex workers provide a very important service within our society,” Bridgette said. “People need connection, they need intimacy.” 

In terms of community building, consensual adult sex workers provide aid for not only those within the profession, but for the general public surrounding them.  

Both Bridgette and Colette are aware of the needs at the borderland, thus they help those who are neglected from society, empathizing with them. 

This extended hand can be extra helpful for migrants who, according to Colette, face double criminalization if they are also consensual adult sex workers. 

“Sex workers are some of the best organizers and harm reductionists and most radical people I’ve met, honestly, because we have to be,” Colette said. “In similar ways to other marginalized groups, we’ve learned that we can keep us safe the best because the state doesn’t care to.” 

This rings true especially in El Paso as a border city, the demand for additional assistance is largely met by volunteer work and kindness.  

“When we had the influx of migrants Colette was out there feeding people, giving them materials,” Bridgettte said. “And she said something like, ‘I know what it’s like to feel invisible,’ and it really touched me because I saw her and other sex workers just be very responsive to the needs of the community.” 

Even if they have only been an organization for four months, ELSA is aiming for revolutionary and law changing work that starts with the Sun City community. 

“I think organizing and making change starts with building community and building trust, so we want to organize with all the most criminalized, dehumanized people who are facing this violence from the state because that’s what we want to change so we need everybody.” 

For those interested in learning more about ELSA and the events they host, visit their Instagram @elsa_west_texas. 

If anyone would like to sign the petition mentioned earlier, they can do so here or visit ELSA’s Instagram bio for the link too. 

 

Meagan Garcia is the arts & culture editor and may be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Meagan Elizabeth García, Arts & Culture Editor
Meagan Elizabeth García is the arts and culture for The Prospector. She is a senior, majoring in mechanical engineering at UTEP. She is also the vice-president for the Creative Writing Society with hopes of continuing a writing career while also working for NASA as an engineer.
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