People use their bodies in so many ways to make a living. Everyone from athletes to dancers to models are all primarily known for their physical acts. So why are they lauded and sex workers remain vilified? Sex work remains one of the most hotly debated topics. That's not going to change anytime soon. Is a shift in perception starting to take place? This week's Sex Stories We Love looks at the current state of sex work around the world and the direction our opinions may be headed.
Legalese Made Easy
It's no secret that sex workers face many obstacles. Despite being part of most every society since the beginning of time, sex workers continue to face marginalization, abuse, and denial. There are many reasons (and excuses) this abysmal treatment continues, one being plain and simple ignorance. Sex worker acceptance is going to be an uphill battle as long as the rest of us continue to struggle with the current legal status of sex workers and their desired legal recognition. Do you know the difference between legalisation and decriminalization of sex work? How do you think sex work should be classified?
Safety in Decriminalization
Okay, are you all caught up on the concept of decriminalization? It's really important to understand why decriminalization is the preferred standard of sex workers. Our current sexual culture is under attack. For some, that attack is philosophical and figurative. For sex workers, the situation can be literal. Sex workers continue to be victims of assault and violence because they remain on the edge of the law. Most of us can be confident in appealing to the police when we're victimized. Sex workers can't do that in most places. Reporting violence is the equivalent of admitting to sex work. We do not listen to the realities of sex workers. So, at this point, we must eliminate that barrier. Decriminalization is the best way to keep sex workers safe.
Snuffing the Red Light?
When it comes to sex worker rights, Amsterdam always confused and intrigued the rest of the world. Tourists from all over flock to their famous Red Light District, but few other countries allow a similar sex destination. However, it seemsthis famous zone is changing...largely because of the curious tourists. Everyone wants to stroll under the red glow, even if they aren't interested in hiring a sex worker. The measures the city plans to take to lessen the burden of over-tourism (a problem most places must be jealous of) is to ban tours. Unfortunately, sex workers see value in tour guides who explain the rules of the area. That could ultimately diminish their safety. Folks will always be curious about this unique destination, but I am left confused by this decision.
Let Down by Media
There's no denying that the media plays a huge role in influencing our opinions, particularly when it comes to sex workers. Esteemed and amazing anthropologist and author Laura Agustín notes how we've all seen the stereotypical images, headlines, and language that accompany most articles and newscasts regarding sex work. Women leaning into cars, wearing stockings, tragic language...you know the deal.
Do these instances happen? Well, sure, they might. Yet sex work has so many different looks, and many different stories. And all of this stereotypical imagery and language denies the many different sex workers their own stories and agency.
Out With Outing
Another way media and society-at-large snatches agency away from sex workers is through the horrific practice of outing. When someone's very existence is a challenge because of outside forces—in this case, prevailing morals and our current legal structure—powers that be can keep their power by naming names. Should a sex worker dare to step out of their lane or even just stay in their lane, someone else can decide that person no longer deserves dignity or respect. All they need to do is shout that sex worker's legal name from the rooftops and countless terrible things can happen. Loss of privacy, loss of work, loss of custody, loss of banking ability...loss of everything.
Sex Workers on Film
Finally, maybe we think the way we do about sex workers because movies tell us to think that way. Well, some do, but not all. Check out these more varied depictions of sex workers for a less narrow view.