A Few Misconceptions About Sex Work/ers

Coercion

“You must’ve been coerced to be a fssw; there’s no way you would choose this life on your own” – it happens, but in the case of coercion, it is not sex work, but instead, it is abuse.

Gender-based violence

Men attacking women is a common misconception of violence imparted onto sex workers. But in reality, there are clients and sex workers of all genders/sexualities

Any non-consensual act upon a sex worker is abuse, not sex work

The term ‘consensual sex work’ has no place amongst the movement for our rights; if it’s not consensual, it’s abuse. Period.

Buying sex workers’ bodies

Clients are buying a service, not our bodies

Inherently exploitative

To which I respond, “What job isn’t?” On average, 80% of Americans are overworked in some capacity. So why is sex work the only labor sector where laws are being enforced to prevent it? Just because sexual exploitation exists does not negate the ability of sex workers to have agency over their decisions. To claim otherwise is to be complicit in the act of dehumanizing sex workers.

Decreasing demand keeps us safer

False. Decreasing demand forces us to work in more unsafe conditions; it limits our agency and rushes our screening processes

Sex work is easy money

This is one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done. A fellow peer so eloquently put, “Everyone wants to be us until it’s time to suck dick”

We are dangerous to the general population

When I came out to my family about being a sex worker, the first they said was that I was not allowed at any family events, and I was not to be around the grandchildren.

Degrading

Well, since sex work is associated with women, who are typically underpaid and under-valued (kinda like domestic workers), it is no surprise that the world views this line of work as degrading as well.

Sex-Industry is full of high-class, upscale, or elite

This is due in part to the fact that mental illness, single-mother, chronic illness, etc. are not attractive to buyers

Sex workers fight for buyers’ rights

Commercial sex buyers’ perspective has no relevance to the human rights of sex workers. The need and right to buy sex derails sex worker safety and survival discussions

Police keep us safe

They raid with guns, partly due to these myths; they drag sex workers into streets in their underwear; they perform similar abuses by your so-called ‘pimps’, just as landlords and immigration officers do

The Nordic Model is feminist

Some people claim the legislation is feminist because sex workers themselves are decriminalized. However, in every country with these laws, some type of sex worker criminalization has been retained. In Norway, sex workers were still being fined years after they’d supposedly been decriminalized. Women of color are disproportionately targeted. In Ireland, when paying for sex became illegal in 2017, the fines for brothel-keeping doubled. Technically, a brothel is any premises in which more than two people sell sex.

Sex workers are women, Clients are men

This is simply not true; all genders, ages, orientations, people, exist within the sex trade

Human trafficking is primarily through sexual exploitation

It is more often reported, it has become the most documented type of trafficking but, a study in 2009 was repeated 2014: 53% is sexual exploitation while 40% was labor

We are survivors of sexual abuse

Please don’t assume or ask this of us. We are the experts of our own lives, and if there is a connection, it is up to us to define.

Violence is part of the job

Violence at work happens in all industries. Violence happens to us; we do not exist in a field that is inherently violent.

We need to be saved

This way of thinking and believing invisibilizes the context in which our choices are made; it notions that we are incapable of making sound decisions.

Street-based sex workers want to leave the street

Not true. Not all are street workers are hyper-disadvantaged. Some prefer the flexibility, autonomy, and unstructured nature of this sector.

Sex workers lack the education and skills for other job opportunities

Hi. I am living proof that this is incredibly insulting

Arresting us will get us out of the industry and connect us with more resources

No, we have difficulty getting other jobs with a criminal record; not to mention, jail time disconnects us from our community, support, social services, and threatens our housing

Spread of HIV + STI’s

Yes, we are more at risk of contraction, but a lot sex workers use safer sex practices than the general public; in addition, condoms are used to prosecute sex workers in some major cities. This directly impacts the spread of infections.

Clients hold negative attitudes towards women

A client is someone who seeks out a sex worker for any number of reasons including adventure, loneliness, sexual insecurity, companionship, kink play, or gender/sexual orientation exploration and many sex workers have meaningful relationships with clients. Predators may or may not present themselves as clients but their intention is to inflict harm—not to purchase a service. They may seek out sex workers specifically because they perceive us to be easy targets due to criminalization and stigma; we are less likely to report an assault to the police, and if we do, we are less likely to be taken seriously.

We suffer from low self-esteem

For some, it is a sense of pride, while others find it challenging to maintain a healthy sense of worth in the face of judgement / rejection

Fighting sex work reduces human trafficking

In order to fight human trafficking, we need to work with sex workers and clients, not against them

We are under the control of pimps

No, and the term ‘pimp’ invisibilizes the relationships that third-party services have with sex workers, including all the resources and protection they offer. In addition, most sex workers are independent and work for themselves.

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