10 things sex workers wish you knew about sex work

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      It is important to note that I can not speak about anyone’s experience but my own. Stereotypes are harmful. This list was inspired by ignorant things I have read in online comment sections, things I’ve heard from misinformed but well-meaning family members, and things I have experienced by strangers who are unaware of my experiences as a sex worker.

      1. Sex work is not sex trafficking. Sex work is, by definition, consensual work. Sexual work that is not consensual is sex trafficking or abuse. Sex trafficking is an important issue to fight, but a lot of the efforts to fight this have actually harmed sex workers in the process, including but not limited to the FOSTA-SESTA laws. Sex workers consensually work; if there is no consent, there is no sex work.

      2. Survival sex work is one type of sex work. There are many sex workers who are able to afford rent, food, internet, and basic necessities. There are many sex workers who are able to afford luxuries. There are many who cannot. Survival sex work categorizes those who partake in sex work out of a need to survive. This level of sex work has a lot of overlap with street-level or outdoor sex work, referring to sex workers who live and work outside and typically face extreme levels of poverty and housing instability. These two terms are not mutually exclusive, nor do they capture the whole of sex workers’ experiences.

      3. There are different kinds of sex work. The stereotypical scene of a picking up a sex worker in your car is one small piece of the sex work pie. This would fall under street-level, or outdoor sex work. Possibly survival sex work, as well. There are also strippers, full-service indoor sex workers, cam girls, phone sex operators, erotic masseuses, pornographic actors, escorts, dominatrixes, erotic performers, and content creators. The majority of sex work happens indoors. No sex worker experience is the same; most sex workers partake in one or two or more forms of sex work. Sex work is typically inconsistent, as is most independent and freelance work, so diversifying is important. However, do not assume just because a sex worker does one type of work that they automatically do others (such as assuming that all strippers are also full-service workers).

      4. We don’t want to steal your boyfriend/husband/partner. Sex work is work; we are not in it to engage in personal relations and ruin relationships. In fact, sex workers can help to strengthen relationships by filling in gaps that are otherwise missing. For example, a person going through a divorce who doesn’t want to engage in intimacy with another new partner can engage with a sex worker to find what they are missing, and then go on with their day with less stress, able to engage with their duties more fully. Most of the time, clients engage in sex work to fulfill needs they are missing in their day-to-day life—without disrupting their lives. Sex workers fill those needs and then move on to the next client. We are not interested in your partner. We are doing the work and moving on.

      5. I feel safer and more respected as a stripper than my previous retail or serving jobs. In my personal experience working retail or serving, I felt powerless, disrespected, unsafe, and vulnerable. As a sex worker, I enjoy the flexibility of my job, the power that comes with the ability to say no to clients I don’t feel safe with, to walk away or stand up for myself if I feel disrespected, and an extreme increase in my ability to state and enforce boundaries.

      6. Sex workers are more than just sex workers. We are also family members, business owners, homeowners, parents, survivors, educators, volunteers, taxpayers, artists, romantic partners, travellers, writers, students, community members, and so much more. We are fully realized human beings with complex lives just like any other person. Our work does not define us, but society likes to believe it does.

      7. We face stigma from financial institutions, housing, family, friends, and society. Due to the demonization of sexuality, we are also demonized by the very intuitions that we need to support us. I can not count the number of times I have gotten weird looks and questions from the bank, asked for my ID just to make a cash deposit, or had housing turn me away for what I do. I have lost friends, been judged by family, and been stereotyped by society for my job. But this is the job that has provided me the most freedom, independence, stability and joy. Why is that to be shamed?

      8. We are not selling our bodies. The selling of bodies is called black market organ dealing. We are selling our time, our energy, and our entertainment services. We use our bodies for our work, yes, but so do actors, models, construction workers, taxi drivers, manual labourers, and pretty much anyone who has a body and works. The phrase “selling our bodies” only further isolates sex workers by making us feel as if we are consenting to violation. Violation is not consensual. Violation can happen to anyone at any job. Baristas, servers, and retail workers are all at risk of violation, yet none of them face any stigma.

      9. The stigma against sex workers is the most harmful. If the stigma disappeared, then sex workers would be able to access the same resources as anyone else. These resources could provide more safe spaces, health care, financial education, housing, community resources, and more. The most harmful part of sex work is the stigma. The stigma is what keeps us apart from society; the stigma that we are unworthy of basic respect is what harms us.

      10. There is nothing inherently wrong with sex work. There is nothing inherently wrong or shameful about nudity. There is nothing inherently wrong or shameful about sex. There is nothing inherently wrong or shameful about exchanging sex for money or goods. There is nothing inherently wrong or shameful about paying for sexual services. There is nothing inherently wrong or shameful about being a sex worker.