The media portrayal of sex workers has sold the image of them as immoral, dirty and damaged.
This has been constructed on stereotypes the media itself has created over many years. The use of sex workers to sell this concept has been used as a ideological tool in the conservative battle against ‘immorality’.
The more enlightened see sex work as an appropriate phrase for the exchange of sexual services for money. Others see “prostituted women”, universally exploited and abused, and denied their worth as “full citizens”.
This reeks of the sort of 1970s feminism in which women were free to do and be as they pleased, provided their sisters approved.
There is a range of vulnerabilities and adverse outcomes associated with sex work for some women but these are not outcomes for all of them.
The negativity is most commonly associated with illegal or informal sex work. To say this is not to minimise in any way the substantial and real harms that some women experience in the industry.
When there’s an attempt to legalise, decriminalise or better regulate sex work, we find an unseemly alliance of radical feminists and conservative Christian churches acting hand-in-hand to circumvent any changes that would empower sex workers.
Giving sex workers greater control over their working lives and improve the safety of their industry, or the idea that a woman could freely choose is seen as threatening to the moral fabric of society.
Supporting sex workers is to reveal a loyalty to pimps. Yet one of the keystones of sex work reform is to take control of the industry from the pimps and put it into the hands of the workers themselves.
Not only does this remove one of the potentially more coercive and abusive aspects of the industry but it can act to empower workers to improve their working conditions, their income and their safety.
It also brings sex work under the umbrella of the occupational health and safety frameworks that all other employees have the right to enjoy.
Most narrow-minded people think is no such thing as a male sex worker. but research indicates that approximately twice as many men as women are paid for sex. Of those, two-thirds had been paid for sex by another man and the remaining third were paid for sex by a woman.
The very idea of men being paid for sex, most particularly by women, has no place in the analyses of sex work.
Moral crusaders consider sexual intimacy a sacred act and should never involve a commercial transaction. That every sexual act between a man and his wife should be procreative.
And that some right-wing feminists believe that all sex workers are victims of the patriarchy and have no real say in their lives.
Sex work is a valid individual choice and practice. It’s important in a more open society to help people stay physically healthy and emotionally safe, no matter how they make a living.
An Escort’s Story
My first escort “date” was with a guy who called himself Tim. I drove two hours to his house, white-knuckled in anticipation of what I was about to do. He was middle aged, pretty average-looking – balding, in OK shape.
I don’t want to seem flippant when I talk about the sex. There was nothing special about it except for the fact that it was the first time in my young life that I was literally prostituting myself.
In my head, I was constantly wavering between being overly dramatic about the way I was compromising myself, and being blasé about the fact that everyone in the world sluts themselves out for money in some way – therefore, what I was doing was just fine.
In retrospect, my opinion of prostitution is that it is fine if you have straightened it out in your head as to why you are doing it and what you get out of it.
The sex was nothing I remember anything about. He left his television muted on CNN the whole time. My biggest concern was that I had very little experience and that it would show (I had only had sex a couple of times in my life).
My next worry was that I would not be able to fill a full two hours with sexual entertainment. It was not that hard. Most people are easy enough to talk to, and once the sex is over it is just pillow talk and back rubs.