Advocacy for sex work is crucial to feminist discussions

Advocacy for sex work is crucial to feminist discussions

Advocacy for sex work is crucial to feminist discussions
September 24
09:00 2018

To put life in explicitly simple terms, most of the world we know would not exist without sex. Yet the topic of sex is still incredibly controversial and often shameful. Sex workers experience the brunt of this discourse.

Many apart from the industry ask if the occupation of sex work is oppressive toward women or if it could institute empowerment. These questions will never resolve themselves in universality.

As with many careers, sex work is provided through a multitude of mediums and experiences that are circumstantial to the worker — not necessarily the industry. Sex workers are deserving of the human right to cultivate their own portrayal.

I’d like to address that levels of privilege in sex work do exist. The college student camming online for extra spending money does not share the same experiences as a woman working the streets to provide for her family. This does not invalidate legalized forms of sex work, rather it debunks the idea that personal accounts between the two are equal and comparable in every aspect.

Social and cultural positions play a pivotal role in the relationship a sex worker has with the surrounding world. Those who identify as LGBTQ and people of color experience a heightened level of violence and discrimination compared to a white heterosexual counterpart. Often the source of this violence is not the expected pimps and johns, but police. The National Center for Transgender Equality reported that 64 percent of transgender sex workers experienced harassment, and 1 out 10 were sexually assaulted by a police officer.

Therefore, the stigma in relation to prostitution needs to be addressed. This prejudicial mindset dehumanizes workers and invalidates the obstacles they may face. A common misconception is that sex workers cannot experience sexual violence if they are selling sex. Why is this? Doesn’t any human deserve the right to say “no” at any given time?

As a society, we should not be asking if sex work is empowering or degrading. The answer to that question can only be conceived on an individual basis and through personal experience. Discussions regarding the morality of sex work are counterproductive. The market for sex will always exist. Why not take steps as a society to reduce extended brutality?

The legalization of sex work is the first step in minimizing vulnerability. Sex work itself is not innately violent or oppressive. It is the criminalization of it that creates a breeding ground for abuse. Without the protection of the law, sex workers have little to no safety net. Many never come forward about acts of coercion and violence because of the intense fear they may be prosecuted as well.

When a group of people are marginalized by law, it creates a systematic acceptance of their dehumanization. Rape, murder, non-consensual condom removal and physical abuse against sex workers needs to be recognized and taken seriously by those in positions of power. The sad truth is these acts often are not taken seriously and perpetrators take advantage of this. Decriminalization will allow for regulation and personal autonomy.

And sex work is not inherently repressive. For many, this is a job that has been chosen, not forced. It can be used as a catalyst for sexual exploration and financial stability. Advocacy for sex workers is needed for their empowerment to flourish, not vice versa. Perceptions of empowerment, or lack thereof, are not grounds for exploitation of basic human rights. If you don’t “theoretically” believe in the morality of the sex industry, just don’t become a sex worker.

Society should be less concerned with the moral ambiguity of sex work and more apprehensive of how workers are being treated. Sex workers deserve to be listened to and included in feminist discussions. Don’t speak over their voices.

Featured Illustration: Chelsea Tolin

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madeline chalkley

madeline chalkley

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