Carol Leigh has
been working as a sex worker/prostitute activist and 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.
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 Elena, 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 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.'
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. 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 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.
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. (http://www.sexworkersartshow.com)
She was part of the Sex Worker Art Show Tour (2002-2006), which visited
30 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 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. 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
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: carolleigh[ x] bayswan[.org]
for more information
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