Carol Leigh: An Interview

Video Data Bank

1993 | 00:31:16 | United States | English | Color | Mono | 4:3 | Video

Collection: Interviews, On Art and Artists

Tags: Interview, Politics, Sexuality, VDB Interviews

During a conference in the late 1970s, Carol Leigh (also known as the Scarlot Harlot) coined the term “sex worker.” Now, it is a fundamental part of the lexicon regarding all worker’s rights and this is owed in large part to Leigh’s artistic and activist career. Working primarily through the medium of performance and video – her work attempts to educate and broaden audiences’ understanding of sex work and the fundamental rights sex workers deserve. This interview is a distillation of those aims.

Leigh asserts that her work has a recuperative agenda. Through the Scarlot Harlot, she aims to revitalize and destigmatize the image of the “whore with a heart of gold.” Finding immense power and potential in the typically untapped reservoir of female sexuality – Leigh sees her own sex work, and the sex work of others, as having the possibility to serve a higher, spiritual function in society. This, however, is short-circuited by both the negative images circulating around sex work, and the bureaucratization and regulation of laws condemning sex work. Ultimately, Leigh states, until sex workers are included in the conversations about femininity, sexuality and legality – conversations from which heretofore they have been excluded – their work will remain fragmented rather than collective, and stigmatization will abound.

— Nicolas Holt, 2016

Interview by Ayanna U'Dongo

This is a historic interview conducted in 1993 and edited in 2013 by Charles Rice.

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