What I speak of in this piece deals with the topic of Sex Work and Human Rights, and my own views on that. When I say sex work I am referring to consenting adults. There is a difference when there is force, coercion, exploitation, or children involved, that is trafficking and I would never condone that. If you are willing to see the difference between the two feel free to read on, otherwise I suggest you stop reading here.
The Moralists (a vocal minority and extremists in my opinion) in our world have stepped up their fight against what they perceive as the improper sexual behavior of other people. It does not matter to them that it is consenting adults making a choice for themselves without anyone being hurt. The Moralists don’t like it and want to control other peoples actions so that it conforms to their own standard. The most recent trend is the wave of policies being implemented that criminalize the purchasers of sex. It targets the clients in an attempt to end the demand for it. Without clients the worker would have no work is the assumption. Take away their livelihood. Ignore that Human Right to work and free choice of work.
The war on sex work as a whole is not new. The stigma against it has been there for generations. I think it comes from that archaic idea of a woman feeling pleasure during sex is bad, which is still stigmatized in much of the world today. Repression of all things sexual is common in many societies. Early on girls are taught to dress proper in school or be sent home to change, as it is disruptive to the boys. Show a female form naked in a movie and it will get a higher restriction rating than if it is filled with violence. There is a whole culture of whore-phobia going on around us too. The shaming of “sluts” for being openly sexual or comfortable with themselves. The idea that jokes about dead hookers are okay. That sex work is demeaning to women, but for some reason not to the men that choose it. Women must conform to moral standards, not the men.
I am not a sex worker, however I listen to them. It is the voices of those who do the work and have the life experience who can tell us facts about sex work. The Moralists have scare tactics to incite a public reaction. Their words usually conflate sex work with trafficking though. They want people to give to their cause, to join them in their way of thinking. They want converts and money. They “rescue” people without first checking to see if they need help. React to what they see as wrong and try to stamp it out regardless of other peoples Human Rights. Any choice they would not make for themselves must be a wrong one.
I have tried to speak up by being supportive of others voices. To help amplify the words of those who know what I do not and cannot know. I speak of Human Rights or point out research that is done that many consider reputable. Show that the United Nations and the World Health Organization support the decriminalization of sex work and why they do. I try to avoid speaking as though I am a voice for Sex Workers. I try not call myself an ally even, for that is not my call to make in my opinion. I made the mistake in the past of talking more than listening, and of thinking I had something important to add to the conversation, but I am an outsider. I can be supportive so long as it is on the terms of those whom I wish to support. Still learning that.
I have been told you have to have been a Sex Worker to know sex work. I agree with that. Can anyone except an astronaut that’s spent six months on the International Space Station really understand being an astronaut? How about a Doctor that was in the hot zone helping fight the latest major Ebola outbreak being told by a first year business student their experience was not relevant to medicine? Or when nuns and priests tell people in sex work that they know better about sex? So when I have Sex Workers tell me that I have to experience sex work to understand it, I get that. I cannot know and neither can you. I get that I don’t get it.
What consenting adults choose to do or not to do in private is no one’s business except their own. Whether they be a sex worker, gay, straight, trans, married, or all of those things. That intrusiveness into the sex lives of other adults is the exact same thing that Moralists push who want everyone to be in a heterosexual-church-sanctioned-marriage. Follow their Moral path or go to jail, and if it is not illegal they want it made illegal. I see it as a fight of Human Rights vs Morals. And if you don’t have the Human Rights to protect the Moral ones first, someone’s Rights will always suffer. We all have a Right to choose for ourselves.
Oddly what I don’t see is these Haters of sex work standing up and fighting for trafficking victims around the world. What about the child slaves in the Ivory Coast that produce 40% of the world’s chocolate. Or the agricultural and fishery laborers globally that number in the millions that put food on Haters plates at a reasonable price due to exploitation. And the domestic laborers in many industrialized nations that are brought across borders illegally and placed under debt bondage, and have that used against them as a threat for deportation if they report poor work conditions. Where is that Crusade?