In the past few decades, American society has vastly changed the way we talk about sex and sex work. There have been huge strides in sexual education, and many public schools have switched from abstinence-only to comprehensive sexual education. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Committee on Adolescent Health Care, talking about sex and how to do it safely is crucial, because people will do it no matter what. As conversations about safe sex have become more commonplace, so have conversations about sex work. It’s an incredibly complex issue and while I think we should be talking about it, I don’t think it typically gets the complexity it deserves.
Many feminists have taken the position that engaging in sex work is empowering, and we should be celebrating those who choose to partake. I strongly believe that no sex worker should be shamed, however, glamorizing the industry can be incredibly dangerous, as explained in the Washington Examiner by Debra Soh. However, there is a rising number of women who preach the opposite. Stella Barey, a sex worker on Tik Tok talks a lot about how positive her experiences have been in the industry, and how much money she makes. She explains that sex work has been very empowering for her, because she’s able to make money off of doing something she enjoys and feels passionate about. Barey has a huge platform, and many of her followers are young girls. She comes from a very privileged background, and she even went to Columbia University.
According to the Journal of Trauma Practice, many women are forced into sex work by trafficking, needing to pay for basic necessities, or just a lack of options. Barey is a part of an emerging generation of women who are incredibly privileged and could make money in dozens of other ways, but choose to engage in sex work. While talking about the positives is empowering, not recognizing the negatives is dangerous because it sets an unrealistic standard for the industry as a whole. Barey makes sex work out to be amazing and entirely positive, and for her young followers this can be very dangerous. She never discusses the very possible dangers that come with the job. Feelings of exploitation, sexual assault, difficulty with escaping the industry, and sex trafficking are all very real possibilities that she should acknowledge.