Renowned sex activist Carol Leigh, who began advocating for sex workers’ rights in the 1970s and established the term “sex worker” in public debate, died in mid-November at age 71.
At age 71, Carol Leigh, influential sex worker activist and advocate passed away. Many sex workers and activists hailed Leigh’s contributions to the decriminalization of sex work. She was one of the key voices in the still ongoing fight against the stigmatization of sex workers and dedicated her professional life to give sex workers a voice in society.
Leigh’s early advocacy shifted the discourse away from »prostitution«, a term grounded in punitive legal frameworks, and toward the neutral, destigmatizing terms »sex worker« and »sex work«. She continued her advocacy into the digital era, communicating through Twitter and participating in conferences via Zoom.
Former porn star and writer Lorelei Lee wrote a eulogy for Ms Leigh, describing her as someone who “gave her whole life to people in the sex trades, and never stopped learning, growing and questioning her own analyses. She was the rare icon who also made herself a student of younger activists. She gave me so much, and I’ll hold her in my heart always.”
Leigh’s longtime collaborator, the famous sex activist Annie Sprinkle, had already announced in September that she would be in charge of Leigh’s archive in the future. The archive contains documents compiled over decades regarding the struggle to destigmatize sex work.
Samantha Cole, a writer for Vice and Motherboard, published an obituary highlting Leigh’s importance. Cole cited Leigh’s authorship of political films and shows and mentioned the co-founding of the Bay Area Sex Workers Advocacy Network as well as the Sex Workers Outreach Project. Leigh wsa also an early member of the HIV/AIDS activist organization ACT UP.