Created by Alyssa Meyer, Moonlight is a program that offers a space where individuals involved in sex work can develop personal and professional skills. And most importantly, Alyssa wanted the program to be an safe space where sex workers could talk openly and comfortably about their work.
Moonlight was inspired by an website creation program she attended. When the facilitator asked the participants if anyone had arts-based website creation experience, Alyssa thought of the website she had created for sex work, but assumed this didn’t qualify as art because of the widespread negative connotations associated with sex work. As a result, Alyssa didn’t feel comfortable raising her hand, despite believing that this should still count as art. “As sex workers, we are often involved in acting and performance art, creating our work personas, practicing art forms like photography, dance, aesthetics and fashion, and writing, through our marketing.” At this moment, Alyssa felt the need to reach out to funders and other sex workers to kickstart the program that would become Moonlight.
“ArtReach made this launch of Moonlight possible,”said Alyssa. ArtReach supported Moonlight foremost by validating Moonlight’s vision that sex work and its related art forms are real art. The grant from ArtReach also assisted the project by not only providing funding for artistic development, but also ensuring the wellness of participants. Some of the youth involved faced difficult times during the program, Alyssa discussed, and the grant supplied necessities like tokens, food, and honoraria.
Because of the stigma attached to sex work Alyssa initially found it difficult to find participants, however attendance began to grow as the project progressed. “The communities response to Moonlight has been quite positive, and the youth, as well as the youth workers, feel the need for a program like Moonlight”, said Alyssa. The project has allowed for increased opportunities and resources for its participants through collaborations, and “youth have reported that they’ve left feeling safer knowing their legal rights, feeling emotionally better after forming community and discussing experiences, and expressed wanting more programming from Moonlight in the future”, Alyssa notes.
Through this project, Alyssa has gained more knowledge about running a program and the changes that come along with it. She said that one of the biggest impacts the program has made is that the youth have an opportunity to learn, heal, and connect with other sex workers like themselves. When developing the Moonlight team, she wanted to add individuals that represented a wide range of experiences and identities, reflecting a variety of types of sex work. Specifically, Alyssa recalls having heard “BIPOC (Black/ Indigenous/ People of Colour) sex workers say that they have felt uncomfortable in white sex working spaces.” Recognizing this, Alyssa felt it was important to include BIPOC in the leadership of the program to ensure a more accessible space.
Alyssa hopes for the program to continue to grow organically, and is working to secure funding for future Moonlight programming.
If you would like to check out Moonlight click here.
Author: Jessica Bentu