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Sex Workers Throw That Ass for Their Rights Along Hennepin Avenue

'Even if they just show up for the titties, by the time they leave they support our cause.'

Patrick Strait|

Dancing in the Streets

There was twerking, a parade of cars festooned with dildos, asphalt-humping, and genuine camaraderie as sex workers of all denominations made their way along Hennepin Avenue on a rainy Sunday for the fourth-annual Dancing in the Streets (DITS). The event, organized by the local chapter of the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP), doubled as a celebration of International Whore’s Day. 

“Every year we have onlookers join in,” says Beebee Gunn, a stripper herself and one of the organizers. “I think a lot of people don’t think it’s real at first. Even if they just show up for the titties, by the time they leave they support our cause. The titties are a great ice breaker to the education.” 

This year, a crowd of roughly 50 people—including strippers, cam performers, full-service sex workers, friends, and supporters—kicked things off on Second Avenue right by Sex World. From there, they made their way through downtown, chanting, dancing, and lassoing folks (the march’s theme was “Reverse Cowgirl”). Meanwhile, curious onlookers (and the occasional judgy Karens) stopped to stare or were swept up in the tidal wave of “slut magic” (that’s SWOP-talk for sex worker energy). 

Dancing in the StreetsPatrick Strait

“There isn’t a lot of networking or conferences in this line of work,” says Seven, a local part-time dancer, who carried a “Rights Not Rescue” sign. “Events like this give me the chance to talk with other dancers about the job and things that affect all of us.” 

For Seven, supporting decriminalization of sex work was her priority for the day, but visibility is important too. 

“I think this event raises awareness to the fact that a lot of people do sex work in the closet,” she says. “A lot of people in my life would be really surprised to find out that I dance, so it’s nice to see more people in my industry and to make it feel more normalized.” 

Supporters made it rain with cash just as actual rain came down on the crowd, and the crew twerked their way to their final destination, Father Hennepin Park, where the celebration continued with a stripper showcase representing nearly every gentlemens’ club in Minneapolis. 

“Everybody loves strippers,” says Honey, a stripper herself. “People come from all walks of life, and we’ve found a way to make our own money and give back to the economy. Some people might not like what we do or how it’s handled, but it makes things move and shake at the end of the day.” 

Making things shake wasn’t the only thing happening in the park, however. Different strip clubs, sex shops, and advocacy groups were on-hand to share information about various causes that often go unmentioned when discussing the sex-worker community. 

Dancing in the StreetsPatrick Strait

“I’m hoping to bring more awareness to changing legislation for harm reduction in clubs,” says Cherry Bomb, who performed in the showcase that day. “We want to have Narcan and test strips in the clubs. The reality of this world is that some girls are users, and instead of shaming them for it we should make things safer.” 

SWOP Executive Director Andi Snow believes DITS and the work her org is doing all year long is making a difference locally. 

“When we started, people wanted us to be silent and didn’t want [SWOP] to exist,” she says. “Now we’re having real conversations about decriminalization to the point it feels like it’s a foregone conclusion. It’s going to happen, and it’s going to happen because of our work.” 

“People are more open minded than you might think they are, even if they won’t admit it in public,” Gunn adds. “I’ve noticed a huge difference. The animosity towards us has shifted to curiosity.”

As the event concluded and cleared out that rainy Sunday, Gunn summed things up nicely from her perch on top of the lead parade truck: “Even if you don’t know it, someone you love is a sex worker.”

Dancing in the StreetsPatrick Strait
Dancing in the StreetsPatrick Strait
Dancing in the StreetsPatrick Strait
Dancing in the StreetsPatrick Strait
Dancing in the StreetsPatrick Strait

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