How does the overlap between spirituality and physicality manifest in sex work?

After a simple survey to get the lay of the land in my community – internet accessing, politically engaged, English-speaking sex workers – and nine individual interviews conducted through Zoom, I began working with STAR, the first sex workers collective in the Balkans, based in Skopje, in recently renamed North Macedonia. 

Out of the many questions public-facing sex workers such as pornographers and activists are asked, it’s rare for a person to inquire about our spiritual lives. Throughout the first stage of my project there was much mention of the novelty of this line of discussion, and interest in the results, from members of my community. Many of us in the West were raised in some form of Christianity, others were born into multigenerational lineages of witchcraft. One male pornography performer, the son of a preacher, said ‘I want to believe’. A woman with over a decade of experience in work like stripping and full service offered to initiate me into the cult of Babylon. A man who’d been a client, then a worker, then a client again, told me to look up the Roman Catholic patron saint of prostitutes. We vary, like the rest of the world, and are spiritually engaged as much as others are.

In the second phase I conducted three remote discussion and video capture sessions with workers involved with STAR I then processed the images digitally, printed them, manipulated the prints, and stitched them with polyester thread to a geometric yet flexible white wool dress – designed to accommodate a diversity of body shapes and sizes – in a pattern reminiscent of regional rugs known as ćilim (avoiding fertility patterns, for obvious reasons.)

The final work will be sent to Skopje for STAR to display however they choose, with the hope that workers and curious outsiders will act on the opportunity to momentarily gird themselves in the physical representation of our expression of our varied faiths.