Carol Leigh has been
working as a prostitute, activist and an artist in the Bay Area for more
than thirty years. Since the late seventies, she has written and performed
political satire as "Scarlot Harlot," and produced work in a variety
of genres on women's issues including work based on her experience in San
Francisco massage parlors. Leigh is one of the "mothers" of the
sex workers' rights movement in the US and internationally- in fact, she
coined the term "sex work" in the late seventies. Last Gasp released
Leigh's book, Unrepentant Whore: The Collected Work of Scarlot Harlot in
Spring 2004, available at your local bookstore or at UnrepentantWhore.com.
In 2006 Leigh received a prestigious grant from the
Creative Work Fund for the
Sex Worker Media Library in collaboration with the
Center for Sex and Culture. Since 1999 she has directed the
San Francisco Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival, collaborating for many
years with Erica Fabulous and Laure McElroy.
Carol Leigh is a long time spokesperson for COYOTE, the sex worker rights
organization, founded by Margo St. James. For several years Leigh coordinated
a street outreach project through the Coalition on Prostitution, providing
condoms, and health and safety information to street workers in San Francisco.
She co-founded BAY SWAN, Bay Area Sex
Workers Advocacy Network, organizing sex worker rights advocates employed
as outreach workers at various agencies. She founded Trafficking
Policy Research Project which compiles information about 'the Effects
of U.S. Trafficking Laws and Policies.' She is webmistress BAYSWAN'S Prostitutes'
Education Network Website, which features some of the most extensive
information about sex workers' rights and issues on the web (English). Leigh
volunteered at the HIV Prevention Project (needle exchange) in the women's
site food program for several years. As a founding member of ACT UP (in
San Francisco), Leigh organized a campaign against mandatory HIV testing
of prostitutes. She was seated on the San Francisco Board of Supervisor's
Task Force on Prostitution representing San Francisco's Commission on the
Status of Women. As a member of SWOP, she was one of the authors of Measure
Q, Berkeley's Ballot Initiative to Decrminalize Prostitution and helped
organize the campaign for Yes on Prop
K.org, a San Francisco ballot measure for decriminalization. She has
worked with community groups as a consultant regarding sex workers' rights
in Hungary, in Taiwan, Hong Kong and in South Africa.
The Adventures of
Scarlot Harlot, Leigh's one-woman play, was featured at The National Festival
of Women's Theater in Santa Cruz in 1983. For three decades Leigh has performed
at clubs, theaters, rallies and other venues including the Miss Haight Ashbury
Beauty Pageant at the Great American Music Hall, the COYOTE Hooker's Ball,
the former Holy City Zoo and many more. Leigh recently returned from a performance
art tour of the United States as part of the Sex Workers Art Show tour.
(http://www.sexworkersartshow.com) She was part of the Sex Worker Art Show
Tour (2002-2006), which visits 26 cities in the US. For the past several
years Leigh has traveled internationally, performing at arts festivals including
Venice's Biennale 2001, and Taiwan's cultural festival "100 Years of Legal
Carol Leigh has
been producing video since 1985. Leigh was trained in a variety of
media, attending Boston University's Master's program in Creative
Writing (the semester that Anne Sexton committed suicide) where she
began her artistic career as a poet. She studied painting and design
at Lake Placid Art School and Monserrat in New York. Trained at Tucson,
Arizona's Community Television, Leigh produced an award winning weekly
public access TV show for over ten years. In the 90s Leigh won numerous
awards for her work, which features a range of genres including guerrilla
documentary, narratives, comedy, industrials and music videos. She
has produced promotional videos for Bay Area community service organizations
including the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, the Needle Exchange and
Women's Positive Legal Action Network. She was a recipient of funding
awards from ART MATTERS, the FILM ARTS FOUNDATION and Video Databank's
LYNN BLUMENTHAL MEMORIAL FUND.
Carol Leigh AKA
Scarlot Harlot received numerous awards for her video documentaries
on women's issues and gay/lesbian issues, including three awards from
Visions of US at the American Film Institute. Leigh is the director
and founder of the San Francisco Sex Worker Film and Video Festival.
In 1999 Leigh co-directed Annie Sprinkle's Herstory of Porn, which
premiered at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. She directed many erotic
videos or 'feminist porn' for House O' Chicks and for Erospirit Reasearch.
Leigh's video, BLIND EYE TO JUSTICE: HIV+ Women in California Prisons
narrated by Angela Davis won Best Documentary winner at the Black
International Cinema in Berlin. Leigh currently curates and directs
the San Francisco Sex Worker Film and Video Festival (http://www.sexworkerfest.com).
Leigh taught digital video production at the International Center
for Digital Art, Center for Electronic Arts and other art schools
in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Over 100 articles
have been published by or about Leigh/Harlot in books, newspapers
and magazines. She has appeared on THE ROSEANNE SHOW, DONAHUE, NIGHTLINE,
ACCESS AMERICA, GERALDO and numerous other national and international
TV and radio shows. She is a contributor to several anthologies including
Uncontrollable Bodies: Testimonies of Identity and Culture, Bay Press
1994; Gauntlet, Issue #7 (Guest Editor-In Defense of Prostitution);
Policing Public Sex (South End Press, 1996); Sex Work (Cleis Press,
1987), and Whores and Other Feminists (Routlegde, 1997).
also see Unrepentant
Whore: Collected Works of Scarlot Harlot
for more information
Click for information about how you can help.
or read more in
as published in UNCONTROLLABLE BODIES:
Testimonies of Identity and Culture,
published by Bay Press, Seattle.