On Sunday, $preadsters past and present gathered at my apartment in Brooklyn for a serious conversation about the future of the magazine. After several hours of lively debate, and some misty eyes, we decided that the best thing to do is to discontinue the publication of $pread magazine. It’s a sad and heavy thing, but unfortunately the only way things can go at this point.
Six years ago, in the late summer of 2004, I was forwarded a call for submissions for a sex worker magazine in the works. I pitched a piece, and it didn’t really go anywhere. I kept writing my personal blog, working out my shit around doing sex work, my attempts at non-monogamy, and tried to find my voice and my community. But then I kept hearing more about the magazine, called $pread. And I kept bugging the editors. I wanted to help. But more than that, I wanted to meet and know other sex workers. I wanted to be known and understood by them. In the early winter, I responded to a panicked ask – they needed some content to finish up the magazine before it went to print. ASAP. I delivered several news pieces and then jumped into the process of making a magazine. Which none of us knew how to do.
After the debut of the first issue, I became the News and Shorts Editor. And then, one issue later, I became an Executive Editor (one of two). In January 2008, I made the decision to leave $pread after more than three years of intense volunteering with the project.
It isn’t an understatement to say that $pread, and the people involved with it, transformed my life.
$pread helped me claim my voice as a sex worker, and fight to make space for other sex workers to do the same. Working on $pread made me believe that storytelling is the building block of movement building, and that both making our own media and challenging discourse about sex workers in mainstream media are crucial elements of the struggle for sex workers’ rights. $pread led directly to the creation of Sex Work Awareness and was the inspiration for the Speak Up! media training (which started as a session at the 2006 Desiree Alliance conference called “Journalism for Sex Workers”). And $pread has certainly been in my mind as I’ve developed the Red Umbrella Diaries.
It’s very sad to see it end, but it will have a graceful exit. And, perhaps more importantly, we are planning ways for the magazine to remain accessible as a resource well into the future.
Here’s the official $pread statement:
Hello $pread fans. We regret to inform you that, while we expect to publish 5.4, the Crime and Punishment Issue and 6.1, the Race Issue (guest-edited by a fabulous collective of sex workers of color) by January, $pread will close its glittery doors soon after the dawn of the New Year.
Once the remaining two issues have been posted, we will fulfill subscriptions for those of you who are owed them with the option of back issues, or, if youâ€™re feeling generous, a waiver to help us with closing costs. We apologize for those of you who have only recently come to know us, and to all our longtime supporters. After all these years, five all-volunteer years to be exact, we have come to the conclusion that an all-volunteer magazine is simply unsustainable in the current publishing climate. Short of a donation of $30,000, we will be unable to sustain the magazine past January.
For those of you with a hankering for $pread merchandise and back issues, make sure to go to the $pread Shop (www.spreadmagazine.org/shop) in the next few months. For those of you who do not currently have a subscription, please purchase the next two issues individually. Once we print the next two issues, we will donate the materials to our outreach partners as well as lay the foundation for a physical archive, complete with all the $pread memories of yore, blemishes and all.
We hope that you will look forward to a $pread retrospective in book form, featuring highlights of our five years of publishing. We will also package a â€˜$pread Scrapbookâ€™ for sex worker advocates looking for tips and tricks on publishing a magazine by and for people working in the sex industry. We are producing these materials in the hopes that our model will help motivate the continued movement for social justice among our many and varied communities, in the same way Danzine inspired our own publication. We also close our doors in the comfort of knowing that right now, around the world, sex worker-run and sex worker-supportive media such as ConStellation (www.chezstella.org) in Montreal, Flower in Beijing, and Red Light District Chicago (www.redlightdistrictchicago.com) are holding forth on the issues that matter to our communities.
$pread was motivated by the motto â€œIlluminating the Sex Industry.â€ We submit these five years of blood, sweat, and tears to you as a testament to this founding sentiment. May the struggle to end the stigma, discrimination, and violence perpetrated against our communities end in justice, and may the flashy strobe light of sex worker rights never go out, but illuminate the sex industry for the world to see.