Sex Work FAQ
Why do people get into sex work?
The sex industry is made up of an incredibly diverse set of individuals, predominately people from marginalised communities. Their experiences within the sex industry are unique and can be different from worker to worker.
For many, sex work isn't optional, it is survival. Around the world there are communities of sex workers who lack adequate social safety nets. For these communities, sex work is a stand-in for the welfare system that has failed them. Others started their journey in sex work because they have found it preferential to other employment options in the capitalist structure that dominates life in society today.
Why does sex work need to be decriminalised, not just legalised?
Many laws and policies currently used to police the sex industry are moralistic and based on misunderstandings of consensual sex work and sex trafficking. These laws have not only been ineffective in reducing trafficking, but are responsible for the deaths of and violence towards many sex workers globally. Thanks to the work of thousands of dedicated sex worker organisers throughout the world, change appears to be on the horizon. A number of leading human rights organisations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the World Health Organisation have come out in support of sex work."
Legalisation means providing some legal framework for some sex workers, but still leaves some sex workers having to break the law to get by. Decriminalising all sex work means reducing the risk of exploitation as sex workers would have the option to report abuse without facing persecutory violence. Sex trafficking rates would also likely decline. Sex workers who do not have access to community support or police protection are more likely to become involved with traffickers, organised crime, or exploitative third parties.
However, many current decriminalisation frameworks exclude protections for migrant and undocumented workers. Unfortunately we can't untether sex work from the racist hetero-patriarchy that is dividing communities.
Why are Anti Trafficking orgs often harmful to sex workers?
We recommend that you are extremely cautious about sharing sex work or trafficking statistics which are not endorsed by a sex work advocacy organisation. Many of these statistics are not only blatantly made up (some have even been denounced by the initial researcher) but they are often used as the basis for harmful carceral legislation. If you would like to educate yourself on sex trafficking and sex work, please take a look at our recommended reading list.
Why is sex work stigmatised?
The taboos around sex are pervasive enough in society that the sex industry is viewed with an air of distain and suspicion. Sex workers, who are entrenched in the sex industry, are radically misunderstood. This misunderstanding has lead to cultural stigma against the work that sex workers do.
Why are many sex workers politically engaged?
Everyone seems to have an opinion on sex work. The existence of sex work is political because opponents are denying the right for sex work to exist in any capacity. Considering the multitude of people opposed to sex work, sex workers are forced to live in highly politically charged positions. Organisations have weaponised morality to use as a crutch in blaming sex workers for unrelated societal issues. Sex work is also heavily legislated across the world, with only a handful of countries with full decriminalisation.
Sex work is inherently intersectional, there is a lot of overlap between sex workers and other marginalised communities. The oppression of our communities necessitate political involvement.
What is FOSTA/SESTA?
In April 2018, U.S congress passed a devastating bill package called FOSTA/SESTA (Fight online Sex Trafficking Act/Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act) which saw the beginning of a new era of online violence against sex workers. Under the guise of fighting child sex trafficking, FOSTA/SESTA weakened section 230 of the communications and decency act making websites responsible for the content their users post. Many websites had a knee jerk reaction and booted sex workers from their platform in fear of prosecution. Further, emboldened authorities were able to take down Backpage.com, one of the largest advertising sites; sex workers aren't safe anywhere online.
Want to know more about sex work?
Most places in the world will have a sex worker organisation or harm reduction group who are dedicated to helping workers. These groups often have a multitude of educational resources, as well as reducing the harm perpetuated to sex workers and trafficking victims. We've put together a global list of organisations working to better the lives of sex workers.
Last updated: 2020-09-17