by Bea Dux
Let’s start with the basics: What/Who is a SEX WORKER?
Frustratingly, the term itself is incredibly nuanced. Some workers and non-workers alike agree that the term ‘Sex Worker’ should be used only by those who offer full service sex work (prostitution/escorting). Technically however, ‘Sex Worker’ is an umbrella term used to describe anyone who works within the sex industry, whether that be direct sexual activity, posting nudes to Onlyfans or running an adult website’s twitter account. Whether you identify as a Sex Worker, a model, or an admin assistant, we are all fighting for the same thing: basic rights. Not asking a lot, right? You’d be surprised.
Sex Work in itself is a huge part of the global economy. It’s connected to migration, crime, mental health, poverty, LGBTQIA+ rights and so much more. So why are sex workers not offered a seat at the table to discuss their own rights and needs? A lot of it comes down to stigma. Yep, every time your nan muttered about Doreen being a hussy, or the boy in the year above playfully called his friend’s mum “a prossie”, the stigma of sex work was being cemented further and further into the fabric of society. Being a Sex Worker has always been seen as something to be ashamed of, and this has been echoed in our governments and media for as long as, well, forever. It’s this same stigma that keeps our bums out of parliament seats. Sex workers are seen as people to be condemned or rescued, which, when you take into consideration that a large handful of SW clients are politicians, is utter bullshit.
Within the modern constraints of capitalism and austerity we are often presented with the opinion as fact that sex work can not be something in which a person chooses to participate, it has to be something that a person is forced into - who would want to do this? Even the loveable Louis Theroux questioned his understanding of why someone would keep returning to the sex industry in his latest documentary - uh, have you heard of capitalism, Louis?
The stigma of sex work runs DEEP and is everywhere, especially on your screens. Every social media platform is rife with censorship inequality, such as Instagram for example, allowing celebrities to share nudes on their feed, but removing cam girls’ accounts for a bikini pic.
Honestly, I could write for DAYS about the inequalities faced by sex workers, but for now, let’s take a look at the main facts. Currently in the UK, the laws surrounding sex work are… confusing. It is legal to buy and sell sex, however, pretty much everything surrounding the exchange is illegal. For example, street working and curb crawling is illegal; therefore limiting people without other options. More than one worker having transactional sex in the same building is classed as ‘brothel keeping’ and that too is illegal. Let’s break that down before we move on: Working together for safety - illegal; street working on your own - also illegal.
Here is where the dangers of sex work should be obvious. If you’ve met your client illegally, you’re less likely to report any crimes committed against you for fear of your own arrest. Equally, a person suffering at the hands of a trafficker will not seek the help of the police if they’re simply going to be arrested themselves. This happens all the time.
This doesn’t leave a whole heap of options. Let’s take a brief peek at at online work. PayPal doesn’t support adult services, neither does CirclePay or Google Wallet, and most (if not all) banks have the right to close your account if you’re found to be earning money through unsavoury means. Despite sex work being one of the biggest industries in the world, the financial powers that be sure want to keep us from earning.
These are among the reasons why sex workers and allies across the world are coming together to fight for RIGHTS NOT RESCUE. A worker does not need rescuing - a victim DOES. For anyone who may be unaware, a sex traffic victim is NOT the same as a sex worker. Somehow, the two are painfully intermixed in the eyes of lawmakers and militant feminists. Criminalisation of sex work pushes the workers and victims underground, it does not ensure the safety of anyone; but rather endangers them further.
Sex Work is work. It should be treated as such. ALL workers deserve equality. Other countries provide hope that this will happen within our lifetime, for example: New Zealand decriminalised sex work in 2003! Follow-up studies show that sex workers felt safer, trust in the police had grown and - much to the shock and surprise of radical feminists - the number of workers had not increased. Though, it should be noted that a person isn’t likely to be encouraged to do sex work if they don’t want to. Nor can they be pushed or forced to be a sex worker, because that would make them a trafficking victim, not a sex worker. Really trying to drive that one home.
Although campaigners have been taking signs and megaphones to the streets of their cities for years, recent events (such as the MeToo movement, the Slut Walk, Hustlers Movie) have really brought sex worker rights to the mainstream view. Protests and marches are seeing more and more numbers, with allies gathering to stand side by side and shout with us.
NO BAD WHORES, JUST BAD LAWS.
A BLOW JOB IS BETTER THAN NO JOB!
In one of Jacq The Stripper’s now seemingly infamous pieces of art, she writes: “Celebration is an act of resistance”. She’s right, which is why sex work is intrinsically linked to disabled rights and LGBTQIA+ rights. By celebrating ourselves and each other, we show anyone who may question us that we are powerful. We are among you. We will be heard.
A handy video by ITV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zJIrLWau3Y
A great podcast to listen to: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/1-charlotte-rose-eliza-harper/id1472725741?i=1000446689928
How to support sex workers during Covid-19: https://www.swarmcollective.org/donate
Date to remember: 17th December - International Day To End Violence Against Sex Work