Carol Leigh

Visit The Scarlot Harlot Video Festival for this and other work by Carol Leigh AKA Scarlot Harlot.

Just Sign on The Dotted Line- The Anti-Prostitution Loyalty Oath

Browse the Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival Video Collection
for extensive education

about sex worker rights around the world,
or visit a collection of work by Carol Leigh aka Scarlot Harlot

Scarlot Harlot Video Festival,
Sex Workers and Anti-Trafficking Videos Collateral Damage, or visit
for updates.


Carol Leigh has been working as a sex worker/prostitute activist and artist in the Bay Area for almost 50 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 "foremothers" 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 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. In 1999 she founded the San Francisco Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival, collaborating for many years with Erica Fabulous, Mariko Passion and Laure McElroy. Leigh was lead writer of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Task Force on Prostitution Report, representing the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women.

Carol Leigh had been 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 and supporters employed as outreach workers at various agencies and was one of the original sex worker rights websites on the web. She founded Trafficking Policy Research Project which compiles information about "the Effects of U.S. Trafficking Laws and Policies"'

Leigh volunteered at the HIV Prevention Project (needle exchange) in the women's site food program for several years. As an original member of ACT UP (in San Francisco), Leigh organized a campaign against mandatory HIV testing of prostitutes. As a founding member of SWOP (Sex Workers Outreach Project), 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, a San Francisco ballot measure for decriminalization. She has worked with community groups and NGOs as a consultant regarding sex workers' rights in The Netherlands, 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 has performed and collaborated with designers Gilbert Baker, Dee Dee Russell and Mariko Passion. Leigh was featured for many years as part of the performance art tour of the United States as part of the Sex Workers Art Show Tour. She was part of the Sex Worker Art Show Tour (2002-2006), which visited 30 cities in the US. For a number of years Leigh traveled internationally, performing at arts festivals including Venice's Biennale 2001, and the COSWAS Taiwan cultural festival "100 Years of Legal Prostitution."

Carol Leigh has been producing video since 1985 and is currently employed as a video producer with Joseph Kramer at Erospirit Research in Oakland. 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 while she was employed as an artists' model. 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. Her work can be viewed at: The Scarlot Harlot Video Festival at . Her ongoing project "Collateral Damage: Sex Workers and The Anti-Trafficking Campaigns" is available here:

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. 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 in collaboration with Joseph Kramer. 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 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



Contact: @carol_leigh for more information
Click for information about how you can donate and help.

Return to