Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge fan of RnB singer Kehlani who was born in Oakland, California. She pushes social boundaries in her music and her personal life. She is openly bisexual and writes some explicit songs about sex, gun and gang violence when she was a child and toxic relationships.
Her recent album It Was Good Until it Wasn’t features a track with rapper Tory Lanez called ‘Can I’ to which Kehlani released a music video for in recent days. Although after the allegations regarding the Megan thee Stallion shooting by Lanez, I am happy that Kehlani has released a solo version of the song without him.
Not only did she release this video during the Covid-19 pandemic, but she also used her platform to show her support for the sex work community. Kehlani’s ‘Quarantine Style’ music video shows her watching online sex workers. Lanez’ verse remains in this version, however a second version of the song has been released on Spotify and Apple Music without the rapper, following the investigation into the Megan Thee Stallion shooting. Figures have shown that the pandemic has hit the sex worker community hard financially and as it is illegal in most places worldwide, there has been no benefits or help from governments. Charities exist to help such people however have also seen plummeting donation rates and less volunteers.
Other music lovers will have exhausted Megan Thee Stallion’s ‘Savage’ where it saw global success on video sharing app TikTok, and now with a remix featuring Queen Bey. Here Beyoncé sings ‘she might start an onlyfans’ also suggesting support for the sex work platform. Onlyfans is a subscription site where users gain ‘fans’ who pay a monthly fee to have access to their content. Although it is not always explicit content, onlyfans is well known for access to porn and nudity. According to PinkNews, the amount of people selling adult content on the site has risen by 42% since the start of the pandemic.
For anyone who doesn’t know me, I live in Leeds in the north of England, which is home to the first ever unofficial legal red light zone in the UK. This means that selling sex or sexual acts for money is legal in a small radius of the Holbeck area near the city centre. Sex workers can operate between 8pm and 6am with no legal consequences in an effort by police, councils and charities to create a safer working environment for them. It was introduced to encourage sex workers to report violence and offer them police protection. I personally think this managed approach is a great thing and will save lives of vulnerable people, especially women. Whether individuals believe sex work in a street setting is right or wrong, the point we should all agree on is that sex workers should have the choice. No-one should be forced into selling sex or have no other alternative.
I think our generation is so much more open and proud of the things we get up to and what we see or know others get up to. And I see sex work as something which is constantly being normalised, now even by celebrities! After all sex work IS work so people should have the right to work and feel safe while they do so. There is still a long way to go in helping sex workers in the ‘red light zone’ in Leeds – as many battle with addiction, violence and mental illness. It upsets me that some people don’t even acknowledge these sex workers as people and come at the situation with ‘they chose that life’ or ‘why don’t they just stop doing it’.
Basis Yorkshire is a non-profit charity which helps female and transgender female sex workers in the Leeds area. They believe that sex workers should have the choice as to whether they go out on the street to work. They also offer emotional support, contraception, health checks, help with stable housing, benefits and legal advice to sex workers. They are in partnership with an organisation called Ugly Mugs, which is a service where sex workers can report incidents and individuals to warn others about potential risks and clients to avoid. They also refer cases to the police to further protect the sex worker community. I Think this this is such a great idea and also a deterrent to potential offenders. Basis Yorkshire are always looking for volunteers and donations, this is something I will definitely do when the covid-19 pandemic allows me to!
For more information on Basis Yorkshire, go to https://basisyorkshire.org.uk/sex-work-project/
For more information about Ugly Mugs, go to https://uglymugs.org/um/about/