Who We Are
Hacking//Hustling is a collective of sex workers, survivors, and accomplices working at the intersection of tech and social justice to interrupt state surveillance and violence facilitated by technology.
Redefining technologies to uplift survival strategies that build safety without prisons or policing.
Sex Work, Technology, and Social Justice
Hacking//Hustling is a collective of sex workers and allies working at the intersection of technology and social justice issues. We come from backgrounds of sex work, public health, data science, community organizing.
Hacking//Hustling was created in response to the imposed threat of FOSTA-SESTA, Melissa Gira Grant and Danielle Blunt presented ‘Dystopia Now: Erasing the Internet by Erasing Sex Workers’ at Data and Society’s Future Perfect Conference and then partnered with Eyebeam NYC to host Hacking//Hustling: A Platform for Sex Workers in a Post-SESTA World,a two-day event consisting of a panel discussion of sex workers followed by peer-led, harm-reduction tech programming and community art exhibition. We seek to create educational programming for sex workers, best practice trainings for healthcare providers and people developing technology and legislation, as well as programming that continues to bridge the gap between these often dissonant communities.
Hacking//Hustling works to abolish carceral technologies and build the capacity of sex workers and survivors to create new technologies that increase safety. Our work explodes the definition of technology to include harm reduction models: community-based research, mutual aid, organizing, art, and any/all tools sex workers and survivors develop to mitigate state, workplace, and interpersonal violence and thrive.
Hacking//Hustling Principles of Unity
- We oppose the use of technology to enable state violence, including state surveillance cameras, law enforcement body cameras, sex offender registries, electronic monitoring, facial recognition technologies, and policing. We oppose all forms of oppression by state and non-state actors, recognizing the state as the central organizer of violence that oppresses people in the sex trades.
- We understand technology to be more than the Internet and digital interfaces/devices.
- We understand sex workers to be originators of new technologies and methods of keeping each other safe. These new technologies include early adoption of online platforms, sharing of online and physical bad date lists, safe calls, protest safety protocols, street art, art and cultural ephemera, and all harm reduction strategies.
- We center the experiences, voices, and needs of people who trade sex by choice, circumstance, or coercion, and understand the overlap in these communities. We respect every person’s autonomy in defining their own experiences.
- We do not align ourselves with violence of the Non-Profit Industrial complex which has enabled a schism between people who trade sex by choice, circumstance or coercion for its own profit and political gains.
- We build connections between liberation struggles opposing racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, capitalism, and all forms of oppression.
- We promote shared leadership and collective decision-making. Using transparent structures for decision-making and conflict resolution, we work to be accountable to these principles not only in our public facing work but in our organizational practices.
- We will not accept any federal or state funding for Hacking//Hustling activities.
Danielle Blunt and Melissa Gira Grant started talking about bringing together sex workers, digital rights activists, journalists, and other allies the morning after the Backpage raid. We were gathered at an emergency community meeting at the Urban Justice Center’s Sex Worker Project. We were talking about our frustration about the lack of response from tech regarding FOSTA/SESTA, and how alienating it felt.
The silence from the tech community in response to SESTA/FOSTA was deafening. This silence served to further disappear an already vulnerable and isolated community. Access to online resources and advertising being threatened isn’t something that is new to the sex worker community. As long as we have been working online, our content has been policed. When we come up with work arounds and new tools, it is only a matter of time before we have to adapt again. Sites come down, and new ones pop up. In between many of us suffer as we lose access to income, our communities and to safer working tools. We been having these conversations for years, and just now is mainstream media starting to listen. We decided that it was time to infiltrate organizations with the power to shift the narrative. We spoke at Data & Society, and the Berkman-Klein Center for Cyber Law and hosted a two day event at Eyebeam. The events thrown by Hacking//Hustling are about flipping the script and centering sex workers as producers of knowledge and expertise.
When the academy cannibalises and regurgitates our content and remains silent in the face of our erasure, we demand to be heard and to be recognized and paid for our labor. The act of partnering with Eyebeam was a beautiful act of hustling. Institutions often overlook how important shifting institutional power, prestige and resources to community can be. By established institutions saying, “this is something that deserves talking about” it becomes something that IS talked about, it becomes something that can secure funding. By an institution paying community for their expertise, the expertise of the community is elevated.
Our goal is to partner with organizations that are already doing similar work. Asking and training organizations on how they can shift resources that they have access to. How can we show up in the streets, at institutions at conferences and make ourselves heard?