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The question of choice.
How often have we been told that women (men rarely mentioned) turn to sex work because they have limited choices or are forced into sex work because of poverty. This is an excuse used not only by the rescue industry but also by some sex worker rights activists.
It is an argument that angers me. It angers me because it suggests a stereotype that eases the consciences of middle class types on either side of the sex worker debate. It angers me because it suggests that poor women are different and have no options but to open their legs to earn a pound or two. It is insulting to the millions of poor women who do not sell sex to survive but actually choose other options and yes, mostly, unless someone has a gun to your head, there are other options.
The vast majority of us are limited in our work choices by our socio-economic environment and sex workers are no different. The vast majority of people choose not to sell sex but the fact that some do is only proof that for some selling sex is a better option. It is the reasons why selling sex is often a better option that should be discussed more and not the excuses used to explain why some people choose to sell sex. I am so tired of sex workers being interviewed and bullied into agreeing that they wish they did not do sex work. The truth is that most people, if pushed; would wish they did not have to work at all, full stop.
Of course there are variances within sex work where women and men on the street for example often sell sex to feed drug habits or sell sex in exchange for shelter. In these circumstances there is a more obvious economic inequality and limitation of choices but choices still exist and these sex workers represent the minority and not the majority of sex work experiences. The inequality represented by this group reflect failures within society to provide adequate social care services. The fact that so much rhetoric on sex work revolves around minority groups however to justify negative legislation that both institutionalises inequality and endangers sex workers lives only serves to emphasise the peculiar obsession with selling sex that pervades our culture.
There is an hysteria about sex trafficking which is disturbing in its assumptions about the choices or lack of them among sex workers. Few anti sex work lobbyists bother themselves to explore the human drama involved in any form of migratory work other than as a negative reflection of their own middle class prejudices about human sexuality.
The real reason why women or men choose sex work regardless of their economic circumstances or social back ground is because sex work offers flexible hours and relatively good rates of pay and does not require great academic skills. Its that simple and that basic. The reason for so many migrant workers sex workers flocking to the major cities of the world is that the stigma around sex work makes the anonymity of selling sex not only in a city but in a foreign city very desirable. If you are from a poor country the temptation to earn relatively easy and quick money in anonymity in the wealthy west is especially tempting. These are real, very human and even aspirational reasons for sex work and for high levels of migratory sex work. Far more plausible but less sexy than lurid tales of trafficking that fuel a very lucrative rescue industry. If you were to be conned into believing with out question the vast numbers of trafficked victims reported on some abolitionist websites you could be forgiven for imagining vast slave auctions on the Kings Road in London or on the champs elysees in Paris. The truth is that like any form of labour sex work is a choice made depending on individual circumstances and is no more the fault of economic or social pressures than any other choices that we all make in life. The only difference is the ickiness felt by some within the rescue industry and government about humans selling sex.
Sex work is a lucrative labour option that offers flexible hours. This is why so many people sell sex, nothing to do with poverty or limited choices but a whole lot to do with wanting more money for working less hours. Sex work is often a means to an end and should be understood as an option some are prepared to take in order to achieve the goals that they set themselves in life. Certainly because of the stigma and the degrees of criminalisation that exist it is not always an easy option but it is mostly one made freely.
So please, on both sides of the argument over sex work can we have less of the prejudices aired to excuse your personal and shared societal ickiness over the idea that any woman or a man can earn in one hour what most nice middle class types can earn in a day simply by offering a sexual service. You may feel sorry for us but the reality is that if it was not for the prejudice against sex work we would all be selling sex and some argue that we all do anyway, just less honestly.