North Texas Daily

Why sex work should be decriminalized

Why sex work should be decriminalized

Why sex work should be decriminalized
April 14
02:25 2020

Sex work is defined by the Sex Workers Outreach Project as, “any type of labor where the explicit goal is to produce a sexual or erotic response in the client. It includes prostitution, but also erotic dancing, webcam work, adult film work, etc.” For clarity’s sake, I will focus on prostitution, sometimes referred to as escorting work, and the arguments for its decriminalization.

Our current model of full criminalization of sex work exposes sex workers to mistreatment at the hands of the state and their clientele. Since their line of work is considered a criminal offense in most of the world, the people involved in sex work risk a criminal record, making the search for more conventional work difficult, if not impossible. When they’re unable to obtain such work, they will continue to sell sex. The risk of jail time renders the individual engaged in sex work unable to take the best measures in regard to their safety. For example, if a sex worker is arrested with condoms in their possession, they can be used as compelling evidence in court. This is a huge red flag in terms of health and safety, as it denies sex workers the basic precautionary measures to protect their health along with contracting and possibly spreading STDs. Also, in Texas, the penalty for owning, financing, controlling, or managing a prostitution enterprise with 2 or more prostitutes is a third-degree felony. Simply bringing in another co-worker on the off chance an appointment with a client goes awry is not an option for sex workers. With current laws such as the FOSTA-SESTA acts, any kind of business operation of overseeing sex work is prohibited. These laws took away online navigation many sex workers use to find, screen and interact with clients. As a result, sex workers risk their lives by taking on clients alone, in addition to risking their health.

Decriminalizing the purchase and sale of sex grants sex workers complete autonomy they require in order to conduct their business in a safe manner they see fit. Legalization, on the other hand, does not grant sex workers with those rights or autonomy. In countries where sex work is legal, as in Amsterdam, the laws require sex workers to register themselves as sex workers, must work within designated areas and are subject to invasive health exams. Those who can afford to jump through such hurdles will always manage to keep their legal status, but those who can’t afford it will continue their work, albeit illegally. In their book, “Revolting Prostitutes,” advocates Juno Mac and Molly Smith have this to say on legalizing sex work: “For these people, the idea of a ‘legalized’ framework is meaningless: the state has drawn a charmed circle and they are not standing inside it. With such significant barriers to overcome, legal status is unobtainable for the vast majority of people, and in most places, the amount of illegal, unregulated sex trade far exceeds that of the legal sex industry.”

What many deem “the oldest profession” gets a bad rap as an unfortunate result of our society’s poor concepts of sex and those who make their living from it. In public, we are quick to label those who work in it as degenerate criminals, push them out of activist and academic spaces, as well as to the furthest recesses of our society, all the while soliciting their services once no one is looking. In my view, sex workers are just as vital to our society as the average civil servant, only the former lacks a pension. Sex workers should not be treated as second class citizens because of the stigma surrounding how they pay their bills. At least allow these people the freedom to come together, articulate their concerns surrounding their work, and let them have the ability to choose how they run their business.

Featured Illustration: Miranda Thomas 

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Taylor Sealy

Taylor Sealy

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