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I have been a little late in catching up on this “article” by FurryGirl on her blog. It describes definitions of who would be on a list that defines whom she thinks is a sex worker and who is not.
I am actually quite a fan of FurryGirl and admire the work she has done to create advertising boards against all the odds in the USA celebrating sex work and raising public awareness around sex work issues.
I don’t particularly want to start another destructive debate that illustrates the differences that exist within the sex worker right movement. I have provided the link to Furrygirls list and I have written my (with minor variations) response below which explains my position very clearly on this issue.

I am concerned when some people within the sex industry decide who is or is not a sex worker. It is divisive and encourages anti sex work activists to concentrate attention on divisions within the sex work rights movement..
I have been a male gay sex worker for fourteen years. My partner is an escort agency owner. He like many agency/brothel owners also works as (in his case a gay male)an escort. Is he a sex worker in the definitions given or a manager or both?
He like many in his position suffers the stigma associated with selling sex (as I do)but is at much greater risk of prosecution here in the UK than I am.
Managers like my civil partner and the escorts who employ them to represent them make money from selling sex. They usually work longer hours than any escort I know and with little thanks but much greater risk of prosecution by the law. Other sex workers use the experience of managers to their advantage and many escorts who work through agencies later go on to work independently (which involves them having management skills) or even to open their own agencies or brothels. It seems to me this is and should be recognised as part of the career path within the sex industry.

The term sex worker was created in part to diffuse the stigma associated with selling sex and to create a solidarity within an industry where everyone is equally stigmatised and are understood to be criminals (even if legally they are not).
While our industry remains criminal and some sex workers remain at greater risk of prosecution than others it is wrong to institutionalise stigma and discrimination within our industry against fellow sex workers.
It seems to me; especially here in the UK, that arguments to define who is a “real” sex worker are driven not by any desire to clarify what is often a very grey area but by a political agenda.

For myself and for many sex workers here in the UK at least the term sex worker is a welcoming and encompassing definition that shares the stigmata while celebrating “equally” the work of everyone who makes money from selling sex. It is a definition enshrined within the the IUSW and within the GMB sex worker branch 150. I celebrate that definition and will argue against any who would compromise that solidarity.

Sorry; but I do not accept this list.


About Douglas Fox


  1. stephenpaterson
    6 November, 2011

    The world of engineering employs the terms ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ workers. The direct workers are those physically involved in creating the product. The indirect workers are the remainder, who perform tasks that are no less vital to the enterprise – everything from marketing to cleaning to delivery to accounting to personnel management. It is the indirect workers within the sex industry who are penalised under most UK legislation.

    The problem – or one of them – of the UK perspective is that it attacks those upon whom sex workers frequently depend for their safety – those who provide brothels, those who comprise the persons to whom sex workers should be able to turn to in a crisis. The consequence of this is that society misses an opportunity to provide some initial vetting of such persons – such as the NZ licencing system – and systematically removes such persons from the scenario. When the consequences occur, the cry goes up to create yet more laws with yet higher sentences.

    Such a licensing system, however, would require some notion of what category of persons would and would not require licenses.

  2. Douglas Fox
    6 November, 2011

    I agree with what you say.
    The problem is that within much of sex work the definitions that define categories and even specific aspects of labour are blurred. It is not as black or white as some would have you believe. The arguments that want to discriminate between areas of labour within sex work are too often politically motivated and do nothing to heal divisions within the movement.

  3. Furry Girl
    6 November, 2011

    It’s funny that you say my definition makes you “yawn,” yet you’re obviously very uppity and concerned about what I say.

    Just becomes someone suffers from sex-related stigma, it doesn’t mean they’re a sex worker. People who sell child pornography are seriously stigmatized around a sexual topic, so if we’re basing who’s a sex worker on stigma, commercial-grade pedophiles should be considered sex workers, too. And why not include all sex offenders, rapists, and child molesters while we’re at it? After all, they suffer from social stigma, so they must be sex workers, right?

    Think of it like this: everyone who works in a restaurant can be considered part of the food industry. But not everyone is a waitress, and it’s nonsensical to insist that the owner of a restaurant is a waitress.

    Labor organizing has ALWAYS been about workers, NOT owners/management. It’s laughably ignorant to assume that there is no difference in the political needs of workers and bosses. Sex workers’ rights issues are frequently anti-boss, such as those who feel mistreated by owners of brothels, or strippers who protest the huge stage fees charged by strip club owners, or porn performers who wish more companies would allow the use of condoms. The needs and wants of sex workers are often the exact OPPOSITE of the needs of management/owners.

    Extremely-broad definitions do nothing but erase and ignore the issues of being a sex worker.

  4. Douglas Fox
    6 November, 2011

    The fact that paedophiles produce and distribute and earn money from selling sex may make them sex workers but that definition does not in any way condone what they produce and sell. Just as someone who builds houses that fall down and kill people remains a builder even if his work is undesirable and genuinely criminal.
    Rapists and other sex offenders as sex workers? No I don’t understand your logic to mention these people. Lots of people suffer stigma(some deserving and some very definitely not) but that does not make them sex workers.

    I don’t understand your argument re the restaurant owner and the waitress. THEIR jobs are different but yes they both earn money from selling food.

    Your third point has merit because the term sex industry covers such a huge range of services. Strippers, porn stars, telephone operators etc etc etc. All very different in how they work and in many ways how they are structured. Your argument still fails however because in many situations the boundaries between those who manage and those who do the direct contact work is blurred.

    I notice for example in your reply to a critic that you manage to define yourself as a sex worker even though you manage and direct etc. Many who supported your “list” of definitions of who is a sex worker would NOT accept your right to call yourself a sex worker because you manage and because you (in their terms) exploit others for your profit.

    The organised labour argument equally fails because (as you well know) sex workers are self employed and to change that status in many instances would be difficult and often offer more disadvantages than advantages to those who work directly with clients. In escorting the escort “employs” an agent. There are good agents and bad and good escorts and bad escorts as you again well know. The dynamics of who is the boss and who the worker however is blurred. The definition becomes more blurred when the agent sells sexual services alongside the escorts he or she is employed to manage. Indeed I can see more of an argument from escorts complaining that they are paying for a service that is not perhaps being provided.

    Sex work (and indeed most modern forms of labour) cannot be trapped within nineteenth century definitions of them and us. Those who argue for definitions of who is and who is not a “real” sex worker are trapped by a dated and increasingly irrelevant ideology that means little to sex workers working in a modern and market led industry like the sex industry. Organised labour within the sex industry ( I argue) should reflect the reality of our industry and not the ideologies of the those who deliberately create and perpetuate stigmatisation and division within our industry for no good purpose.

    If you argue for these definitions of who is a “real sex worker” do you also argue for recognition in differences between sex workers ie a high class hooker and a street walker? a seller of casual sex when they want a few pounds and someone who works seven days a week and treats selling sex like a “proper” job?

    For me the term sex worker is and should remain a term that is inclusive and welcoming. Otherwise we become our own enemy worse than those who hate what we do and who use the law to divide us anyway.

  5. Douglas Fox
    8 November, 2011

    Just read Furry Girls childish tweets and her response on her blog to my reply to her comment.


    I have to say that her peevish, childish and huffy response tells us so much. This woman is regarded by some as a leader within the sex worker rights movement. What can I say. 🙂

    Life is too short to deal with silly people who stamp their feet when challenged.

  6. Pingback: Douglas Fox e Amnesty International | il ricciocorno schiattoso

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This entry was posted on 6 November, 2011 by in IUSW, sex worker politics.
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