Yes, Sex Workers Deserve All the Respect

Everyone has an opinion on whether sex work is a legit gig. Whether you’re for or against it, we have to recognize that sex workers are performing a legitimate service: providing sexual pleasure. Isn’t that something that most of us look for at some point, anyway?

Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty as to what sex work really is. According to the World Health Organization, sex work is “the provision of sexual services for money or goods.” Meanwhile, sex workers are “women, men, and transgendered people who receive money or goods in exchange for sexual services, and who consciously define those activities as income generating even if they do not consider sex work as their occupation.” 

Basically, sex work is providing some sort of sexual experience for monetary compensation and/or gifts. This includes, but is not limited to: prostitution, performing on a webcam, pornography, sending nude photos, and sugar baby/sugar daddy relationships.

Perhaps there are certain types of sex work that you aren’t alright with. Maybe you’re fine with someone selling their nude photos or making porn, but you aren’t fine with any acts including actual sex between a sex worker and a paying individual. In any case, it’s fine to have your opinions. 

However, it is our job to respect sex workers and their profession because we run into a lot of issues if we don’t. By deeming sex work as illegal or criminalizing it, we are stripping people of their bodily autonomy. We already don’t like when politicians try to make abortions illegal, so why do we think it’s okay to take away people’s right to sex in exchange for cash? As long as everything is safe and consensual, it is not our job to step in and tell sex workers their job is unethical. 

In terms of the #MeToo movement, it’s important to consider sex workers in allowing them to report their sexual assaults without criticism or judgemental. According to a commonly cited line of research, 45% to 75% of sex workers have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Can you even imagine being a sex worker and reporting your sexual assault? It’s already extremely difficult as is, especially when investigators ask questions like, “What were you wearing?” or, “Did you have anything to drink?” They could be arrested for prostitution, and consequently assaulted by police officers. Sex workers are practically ignored because of the work they perform, and that is not okay. 

By denying the right to sell sex as a product, we are taking so much away from people. In doing so, we limit the safety workers have, destroy any sense of autonomy they may have, and take away an opportunity to tap into a huge industry. Sex workers are human and deserve the same respect as anyone else in any other job.