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 http://www.iusw.org/
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.