The controversies surrounding OnlyFans have been covered by the most mainstream of news outlets over the last year or so, bringing further attention to issues of discrimination within the sex work industries. However, there are various grassroots movements that have snowballed to create this space for this advocacy. Over 20 years ago, dancers at The Lusty Lady, a peep show venue in San Francisco, became the first successfully unionised workforce at a sex business in North America. Live Nude Girls UNITE! is a documentary that provides a valuable perspective of this formative frontline fight for labour rights.
Julia Query, one of the film’s directors, narrates the intimate documentary. She explains the various issues that pushed the workers to fight for the right to unionise: Siobhan Brooks spoke out about discriminatory race-based wage policies and other forms of racism at the establishment, workers were being filmed by customers, and there were no paid sick-days or holidays. The workers undergo hours of negotiation and discuss the emotional tolls of their fight. The main thesis of the film is that sex work is real work, and that sex workers deserve safe and fair working conditions in workplaces that profit from their labour. Watching Live Nude Girls UNITE! today serves as a bit of a rude awakening. The discussion from these workers is all still relevant to our discourses about sex work today, and we’re still working to overcome taboos surrounding sex work in 2021. However, it’s also an encouraging watch, highlighting the power of the people and the good that organisation can do.
“If you liked Hustlers, this is 100% up your street.”