Sex work is the practice of exchanging sexual practices for monetary gain. Usually, this includes prostitution, pimping, and the production of porn in some jurisdictions. However, many sex workers are also working online as cam girls, selling nudes and sexting for money.
Sex work is classified as a criminal practice in most of the fifty states of the United States. Still, many people and organizations are calling for decriminalization because the law prevents sex workers from having access to vital health and safety services. Sex workers’ rights are the same rights as any other worker’s.
Sex workers deserve the same rights and protections as any other labourer
Labour laws assure that any worker is entitled to certain rights, including personal safety, access to medical care, and personal dignity. Few would argue that any worker should be forced to work in unsafe conditions. Because sex work is illegal, sex workers are often forced into dangerous situations with no way to advocate for themselves.
For too long, there has been a taboo on thinking about or talking about sex openly, and this is harmful not only for sex workers but for everyone. Sexual acts performed between consenting adults should not be illegal. A sex worker that is paid for their services is consenting to the act in the same way that any freelancer can choose to accept contracts or not. Therefore, the sex worker deserves no fewer protections than any other independent contractor or freelancer.
Criminalization does not decrease the demand for sex work
There will always be a demand for sex work, and criminalization does nothing to decrease it. However, criminalization unfairly targets sex workers over those that are paying for their services. Regulation of the industry through decriminalization and public policy will not only protect sex workers but contribute to a safer industry for everyone involved.
Demand for sex work will not decrease by imprisoning sex workers or outlawing the production and distribution of porn. This has been demonstrated again and again as being true throughout history.
Because sex work is unregulated and criminalized, sex workers frequently do not have access to adequate health care. This can contribute to many public health concerns, such as the spread of sexually transmitted illnesses like HIV.
Sex workers are already marginalized
Most sex workers choose to engage in sex work because it is the best option that they have. Their motivations are the same as any other worker: to perform a job to receive compensation (usually money). Still, they choose this work in particular because other factors make different types of work a worse choice. These are often due to factors such as drug use, criminal records, family situations, and economic situation. Sex work brings in more money than a minimum wage job.
Sex workers are often supporting families, frequently single parents with young children, or an ailing parent. Studies have shown that a minimum wage job is unable to support a family. A minimum wage job is also unlikely to have the flexibility that a single parent might need when dealing with emergencies such as a sick child.
Sex workers come from already marginalized groups, typically the poor, immigrants, LGBT+ affiliated people, and other vulnerable populations. Further discrimination, such as imprisonment and criminal records for prostitution, will do nothing but increase the injustices that these groups face.
Sex workers more likely to be victims of violent crimes
When a sex worker experiences violence and abuse, they are unlikely to contact law enforcement due to the likelihood that they will face criminal prosecution. Many sex workers have said that they will not call the police unless they are afraid that they might be killed. This means that they are frequently victims of physical and sexual assault, theft, and even kidnapping, and they cannot seek protection under the law without further harming themselves.
Additionally, when sex workers do report these crimes, they are often not believed, and frequently their attackers and abusers face no legal consequences. In these cases, the sex workers will still face prosecution themselves. This further deters sex workers from seeking help when they need it.
Sex-trafficking is a major international problem further facilitated through criminalization. People, usually women, are frequently coerced into paying large sums of money to be illegally smuggled into the country and forced into what amounts to sexual slavery to work off this debt. With the knowledge that sex work is illegal, these women are further discouraged from reaching out for help even when they may have the opportunity to do so because, in the eyes of the law, they are guilty of a crime.
Even domestic sex workers are more vulnerable to sex-trafficking because they have no legal recourse and protection from predators that would manipulate and force them into work they would not freely consent to.
Major world organizations advocate for decriminalization
Amnesty International, an internationally recognized human rights advocacy organization, came out with an official statement in 2015 that called for the decriminalization of sex work. They share this opinion with other major organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women, and the International Labour Organization. These are respected world organizations that work for the rights and fair treatment of individuals globally.
These organizations have cited many of the same concerns: the high rate of violent crimes committed against sex workers, access to health care, high rates of sex trafficking, and further marginalization through criminal prosecution. Rather than focus on penalizing sex workers, decriminalization makes efforts to improve safety and working conditions for these workers.
Sex work is demonized in the media, and inhumane laws unfairly target sex workers. Sex is a natural part of the human experience, and people shouldn’t be shamed or punished for having sex. Embrace this philosophy into your own life and exploring your sexual feelings in a safe, fun way by experimenting with sex toys.