Getting paid to have sex and sex worker rights

Getting Paid to Have Sex

Lots of people have strong opinions about sex work. Either way we should support the rights of sex workers.

Sex work – right or wrong?

The ‘BISH’ view on this is that (regardless of whether you think it’s right or wrong) sex work is work and people who do it should feel safe, protected under the law and treated with total respect by their clients – just like any other worker.

I’ve met and worked with a lot of sex workers. Many of them find that sex work can be very difficult:

  • It’s legal to do by yourself but illegal to work with another sex worker (which makes it less safe)
  • It makes other relationships difficult
  • It can make writing a future CV very difficult
  • It can be hard having a social life
  • It’s hard work as it’s a very demanding customer service job (even if they don’t like their customers)
  • They often have to hide what it is they do

Some of them:

  • Made an active decision to get paid for sex
  • Know that they could get out of it at any time.
  • Often got into it for a specific reason.
  • Have something they are working towards in the future.
  • Earn a good living.
  • Have strict boundaries about what they will or won’t do.
  • Are able to make their own decisions about safer sex.
  • Enjoy what they do (even if they don’t always enjoy the sex).
  • Clients pay them well and are nice to them.
  • Choose who to have sex with and often have a group of clients they can trust.

And some of them

  • Felt that they had no choice at all.
  • May be forced or pressured by someone.
  • May have been forced by their financial circumstances.
  • Might not have enough power to be able to stay safe.
  • Find it difficult to see a way out.
  • Have someone controlling them to work who doesn’t look after them or takes most of their earnings.
  • Have clients who expect not to use condoms.
  • Do not earn a good living.
  • Feel their boundaries aren’t respected.
  • Their clients don’t look after them and may not pay them well.
  • May not have a choice who they have sex with and may not know them at all.

Everyone wants to prevent this last list. Some people think we need to try and end demand and to criminalise the person paying for sex – this has been called the Nordic model.

Should it be illegal to pay for sex?

In my view this will make all sex workers less safe as it will drive sex work underground and away from the agencies and organisations that support them, keep them safer and advocate for their rights. I support the ‘New Zealand’ model which decriminalises sex work and adds further safeguards to prevent under 18s from being involved in sex work and from people being forced into sex work against their will. It seems to have been pretty successful since it was introduced in 2003. UNAIDS, WHO, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, UNFPA, and The Lancet are all in favour of this approach.

How can we make sex workers safer?

If you are a sex worker and want to find a support project for sex workers near you then go to this brilliant website, UK Network of Sex Work Projects, click on projects or on the map of the UK on the right. They can help you to stay safe, to deal with drug or alcohol use and to help you exit sex work.

Safety advice for sex workers from the UK Network of Sex Work Projects

The International Union of Sex Workers

Here’s an interesting blog from a former male sex worker Post Grad Gigolo

National Ugly Mugs is a project which alerts sex workers, and those working with them, about dangerous individuals.

12 thoughts on “Getting Paid to Have Sex

  1. I have a very high sex drive I’m looking to make some money to pay my bills I’m behine on my bills. Y not get paid for what I’m really good at and that’s sex baby .

    1. @stacy : i feel the same way..i am a single woman with a high se x drive..i find that men offer a lot of money to have se x.. I am at a point where i am thinking: i could make a lot of extra money doing what i really enjoy and would be doing anyway…..

  2. Aids, Drugs, Addiction, Beatings, Death are all possibilities for the common street walker in the USA. A step above would be Strippers which only has the advantage of not having to be out in bad weather. The only ones that possibly could be seen to have it good would be Escorts and Porn Workers (not all of those either). That is how it is in the US. Sexual Slavery is on the rise in the US. Mostly controlled by Street Gangs and Cartels reaching across the Mexican Border into the US which stock their Dens in regular everyday neighborhoods.

    Unless you happen to be in a position to just walk into a High Class Escort service, a persons highest probability in the USA just starting out in the Sex Industry is going to be a hard, slow, painful path to self loathing and early death.

    I for one do not see it as a viable option or career path for any Teen, Male or Female.

  3. I’ve arrived at your website from your very good article on sex education in the Guardian today. I’m afraid I found your writing on pornography rather disappointing. I’m glad that you are pointing out that porn isn’t a good source of sex education, but and found your ‘neutrality’ to actually be falling on the pro-porn side – no mention that if you don’t know where the porn is from, it could be a recording of someone being raped, no real mention of the gruelling work conditions in the LA porn industry (the ‘mainstream’ het porn industry), that while HIV is tested for, no other STI is, and that few women last long in the industry, and often feel that once they are on set, they have little choice about what happens to them.

    But I find this writing on prostitution to be completely partisan (“don’t believe what a Labour politician tells you regarding sex work”), with no mention at all of trafficking into the sex industry, or how demand may fuel trafficking and coercion. You use neutralising terminology like “felt they had no choice at all”, if you are homeless, a child, a drug-addict, being controlled through violence and addiction by a pimp, you have no choice, full-stop.

    You lose all credibility by linking to the International Union of Sex Workers, which isn’t a legitimate union at all, they are a lobby group for pimps and johns and brothel keepers (who make up the majority of their 200-odd membership) who’s only interest is in changing the law to make it easier to be a pimp or a john or a brothel keeper, and don’t actually do anything material to help prostitutes at all.

    How about linking to some women who describe themselves as having survived prostitution? The ‘Belle de Jours’ are a tiny minority of the whole.

    As I said, I found your piece in the Guardian very good, but if this is your underlying politics, I won’t be recommending you as a sex educator.

    1. Thanks for your comments. I always review my posts and will take your feedback into consideration when I next tweak the posts you mention. I’m trying to make sense of these issues for young people to enable them to make their own minds up. I never impose my own views on young people, whatever they are.

      If you have any links to recommend to me I’d be happy to consider including them.

    1. I guess just as not everyone is suited to being a sex worker, not everyone is suited to be a customer of a sex worker either.

  4. Well I looked at your fortunate and less fortunate comments, and all are true to a certain extent. But the less fortunate, and the down side of sex work comes from the prohibition of it, and the stigmatization from society and peoples overall attitudes toward the men and women in the sex trade business. I personally have been in the sex trade business. Been a victim of the stigmatization, the abuse from police, and the harassment of society. I believe that if sex work were made legal, and people were not prejudice against the men and women in the sex trade, and more respect, and protections given, you would not see the same types of abuses, neglect, and denegration as you do now. There are varying degrees of women in the sex industry. From the High paid High Class call girl to the Street walker, Truck stop prostitute. Yes, there are uneducated women forced into it, out of desperation, or forced by someone. If you make sex work legal, you then take the criminals out of the picture, and can open up education, and medical services to these women, and could possibly even help them out of their desperate situations without shame, and give them protection and help from whatever has caused them to feel compelled to go the route of sex work as a last resort. No woman should ever be put in a situation of using her body as a last resort for survival or against her will. The sad thing is, while sex work is illegal, these women cannot come forward and get help without shame, or abuse from law enforcement, or from society or from disdain from their own families. There is no incentive for them to discontinue the sex work. So they feel trapped and stuck. In my opinion, make the sex trade legal, and give them options, and opportunities. Stop stigmatizing them. In addition stop lumping the women who do enjoy the sex trade business in with those who do not, or who are forced into it. There are so many women who are in the sex trade business who do very well, and do enjoy what they do. Stop penalizing them, because of the criminals out there who take advantage of the prohibition against the sex trade business! It’s the prohibition that is the problem! Make prostitution legal. Society needs to stop with the laws that are based on religion. That’s what this really is, a law based on a morality from religion. I don’t understand how it is that its ok that a woman can use any part of her body to work and earn a living, but she can’t user her vagina! Totally stupid..

    1. Hi Cathy

      Thank you for your comments.

      Just wanted to remind readers that prostitution itself, in the UK, is legal. It isn’t legal to earn from a sex worker or to solicit sex work in the street, but the actual work is.

      In the US, it is illegal.

      Who else has something to say?


    2. I totally agree. I am currently in a master’s program and find Human Sexuality to be the most fascinating topic in this world. With sex comes responsibility and consequences. Let’s educate people (young, old, religious and non-religious) about the most common and universal practice on this planet-SEX!

      Ivonne Tovar
      Aurora, CO, USA.

  5. Thank you for including my blog.

    I found this post to be well-written, balanced and insightful. I’m fully aware of the fact that not everyone is in sex work because they want to be.

    People like Belle/Brooke and I are certainly “privileged”‘ in our careers (or in Brooke’s case, her former career) and that’s not something I take lightly.

    Again, thank you for the referral and for your balanced coverage. Cheers!

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