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COMPULSIVE PRACTICE: Carol Leigh

“I don’t recall when I first realized that I was an obsessive person, but my obsessiveness came to full fruition around prostitution and sex worker rights. Basically we are trying to teach people in general about sex, we are sex experts, so as a working prostitute, I’m trying to get my video around and promote safe sex. It’s a very positive approach to safe sex, it’s very celebratory, and I know it really reaches young people because it speaks in a language young people understand.”
– Carol Leigh aka Scarlot Harlot in Whores and Healers, 1988

Carol Leigh aka Scarlot Harlot has been working as a sex worker/prostitute activist and artist in the Bay Area for more than thirty years. Since the late seventies, she has written and performed political satire as “Scarlot Harlot,” and produced work in a variety of genres on queer and feminist issues including work based on her experience in San Francisco massage parlors. A “mother” of the sex workers rights movement, she is credited with coining the term “sex worker.” Her recent work and archives are available at sexworkermedialibrary.org.

Carol Leigh, Whores and Healers, 1988
Carol Leigh, Mom PSAs, 1987
Carol Leigh, California Prostitutes Education Project, 1991
Carol Leigh, Just Say No to Mandatory Testing, 1989
Carol Leigh, Blind Eye to Justice, HIV Positive Women in California, 1998
Carol Leigh, Collateral Damage: Sex Workers and the Anti-Trafficking Campaigns (work in progress) 
Carol Leigh, Bad Laws, 1987


COMPULSIVE PRACTICE is a video compilation of compulsive, daily, and habitual practices by nine artists and activists who live with their cameras as one way to manage, reflect upon, and change how they are deeply affected by HIV/AIDS.

Featuring Juanita Mohammed, Ray Navarro (1964–1990), Nelson Sullivan (1948–1989), the Southern AIDS Living Quilt, James Wentzy, Carol Leigh aka Scarlot Harlot, Luna Luis Ortiz, Mark S. King, and Justin B. Terry-Smith.

Curated by Jean Carlomusto, Alexandra Juhasz, and Hugh Ryan for Visual AIDS.