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Sex worker is an umbrella term used to describe any person who exchanges labor of a sexual nature for compensation, in the form of money or gifts. Sex workers may be male, female, or transgender; they can be of any sexuality. It was first used by sex worker activist Carol Leigh in 1978 in an attempt to unite sex workers of all types and genders and highlight their work. The term has now gained widespread acceptance amongst academic publications, labor groups, and governmental and intergovernmental bodies.
Prostitutes, pornographic actors and models, phone sex operators, and sexual surrogates are all classed as sex workers. The term does not describe people who make money from the sexual labor of others such as pornographic directors, website owners, and strip club owners.
A sex worker is also sometimes called a Sex Professional.
Sex workers are employed to engage in sexually explicit acts with or for clients or customers. They may have varying degrees of physical contact with their clients, from the intimate contact of prostitutes to the distance maintained by strippers. In some cases, such as phone sex workers, the sex worker may not have any physical contact with his or her clients at all. Some sex workers perform their duties for just one client or a couple at a time, such as a sexual surrogate, while others as employed to entertain larger groups like burlesque and web cam performers.
The term sex worker is sometimes viewed as a euphemism for prostitute a term which carries some stigma. However, it's generally recognized as a more neutral term.
Some who oppose the sex industry on moral grounds believe the term sex worker legitimizes criminal behavior and the exploitation of participating individuals. It's worth noting though that the term sex worker only refers to people working in the sex industry according to their free will rather than situations of human trafficking or coercion.