What is sex work?
Sex work is any career or form of labor where sexual or sex-based services are sold. This includes, but is not limited to, paid sexual intercorse, erotic dancing, pornography, and phone sex. It is important to remember that sex workers are not a monolith; they do not all do the same type of work, have the same type of clients, or face the same challenges.
Sex work is not sex/human trafficking or any form of forced or coerced labor. In fact, much of what popular culture and mainstream media has to say about sex work/ers is inaccurate.
- “Learn About Sex Work,” Sex Workers Outreach Project, http://www.swopusa.org/learn-about-sex-work/
On how feminism can actually harm sex works:
Feminism often ignores the issues facing sex workers, and sometimes even works against the interests of sex workers. Many feminists don’t view sex work as “real” work, equate sex work with sex trafficking, and assume all sex workers are sexually exploited and want “out” of their jobs. Some feminists go so far as to shame sex workers or actively campaign to keep sex work criminalized. It should be noted that the criminalization of sex work, even if the client is the only party prosecuted, makes the work exponentially more dangerous for sex workers and does not benefit them in any way.
- Gira Grant, Melissa Gira, “The War on Sex Workers,” Reason.com, 2013
An article on Black sex workers, and the appropriation of Black Suffering by white anit-prostitution activiests:
- Maynard, Robyn, “Black Sex Workers’ Lives Matter: Appropriation of Black Suffering,” truth-out.org, 2015, http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/32807-black-sex-workers-lives-matter-appropriation-of-black-suffering
On [feminist] allyship to sex workers:
Respect sex workers and their right to self-determination.
Listen to sex workers. They are the experts on sex work, and only they will be able to tell you what issues sex workers actually face. Additionally, if a sex worker says something is offensive, it is, end of story.
When discussing sex work, identify yourself as a non-sex worker. Many sex workers don’t feel safe revealing their status. When non-sex workers identify themselves it allows people to know who is and is not speaking from direct experience as a sex worker without forcing sex workers to reveal their status.
Always assume there’s a sex worker in the room. Sex work is much more common than many people think, so odds are you’ve interacted with sex workers numerous times without know it.
Never out a sex worker. Period.
Don’t give “advice” or express pity for sex workers. Sex workers are not broken shells of human beings who need to be rescued by captain save-a-ho. And they don’t need helpful little tips on how to stay safe, avoid arrest, or prevent STIs from non-sex workers.
Check your privilege and your prejudice. Sex workers are not beneath you, and neither is sex work. If you don’t ever want to engage in sex work that’s okay. Just like it’s completely okay I don’t want to be a teacher. What isn’t okay is to not want to engage in sex work because it’s “dirty” or because you’re “better than that.”
Don’t believe everything you seen in the media regarding sex work/ers. The lives of most sex workers isn’t anything like that of Julia Roberts’ in Pretty Woman.
Take sex workers’ complaints and concerns seriously without attributing them to the “nature of their work.” In other words, sex workers are a marginalized minority who face serious problems, but those problems aren’t their own faults for being sex workers. In fact, much of the harm sex workers face is a direct result of criminalization and stigmatization, not the work.
- gaywitchesforabortions, “How To Be A Feminist Ally To Sex Workers,” sexworkerhelpfuls, http://sexworkerhelpfuls.tumblr.com/post/84727461598/how-to-be-a-feminist-ally-to-sex-workers
- “How to be a *better* ally to sex workers,” sometimesitsjustacigar.wordpress.com, Oct. 8, 2015, http://wp.me/p3IOyJ-OZ
On the global fight for human rights and legal rights for sex workers:
Learn more at Amnesty International, click here