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One of the reasons I love sex work is the freedom. That word “Freedom” may have sex work abolitionists reaching for their Kalashnikovs and screaming elitist and in fact it will probably have some sex worker activists doing the same. Sex work however, what ever its detractors may say, is one of the few areas of work that allows the worker a wide variety of choices in how they work, where they work and when they work. It is also one of the few areas of work that provides a relatively good instant return, cash in hand, for those with out qualifications or with few choices or options and who need to make money quickly and anonymously. It is also an option equally for those who aspire and also for those who would never comfortably fit into orthodox society. Sex work has for myself provided support while I created other businesses and carved out other creative opportunities. I, unlike many people, have been incredibly lucky because I have always chosen how I want to work and have enjoyed those choices. Few people can say that about their work life.
This unique freedom within sex work is something rarely talked about but in essence is an essential reason for why sex work survives and flourishes no matter how oppressive any regimes sanctions against it. There will always be those in any society who need to or who chooses to look for work that is often chaotic, marginalised but never the less is profitable and flexible.
Sex is one of those few areas of human activity which requires, maintains and welcomes diverse, sometimes chaotic, always individualistic and often marginalised individuals who are willing to service the human sexual imagination. Governments and moralists may not like this truth but never the less they will always be thwarted in their attempts to control human sexuality because orthodox society will always fantasise and there will always be individuals who will service those fantasies, those needs.
Anti sex work groups, so called feminists and moralists will always collude to excite governments into persecuting sex workers, they will reinvent the language of moralism and oppression to service current political angsts, such as gender equality or some new ideal of saving women unwilling to behave correctly. Ultimately however they will fail because they always ignore the unpalatable truth that sex work is not oppression for women (or men) but an opportunity. It may be an opportunity taken after all orthodox channels have failed but never the less sex work provides what moralists can’t and that is a “real” means to achieve a real “goal”.
Saving “fallen women” and then offering them poor choices, such as become a “domestic, learn to sew, flip burgers” and other alternatives that fail to meet the aspirations of women and men who have chosen sex work exhibits an ignorance of human nature, human ambition. What these moralists and so called feminists are truly doing is revealing the condescension implicit in any moral crusade, implicit when ever the privileged condescend to help those they consider less privileged. Their ideal being that we will make those “saved” like us except of course the saved women or men in truth will never be like their saviours, they will always be, if no longer “fallen” women, then “saved women” which carries as much societal stigma. Guilt has never put food on the table but sex work delivers. Obviously people will fail in sex work. Sex work is work, even if sometimes chaotic and like all work it requires a degree of commitment and a certain mindset. Sex work is not for every one but that is no reason to persecute all sex workers or to deliberately make their work unnecessarily dangerous.
History has proven that it is impossible to regulate or control sex work by imposing legislation that reflects a moralist agenda. Such legislation has always had negative consequences for sex workers. Governments must instead eventually prioritise the human rights and the safety of sex workers. To do this means that governments will eventually have to look to decriminalise laws that make sex work dangerous. Governments negotiating to decriminalise must however learn to listen to the many diverse voices and experiences within sex work. Most important is that governments in creating any future legislation must resist their natural desire to over regulate the ungovernable. Over regulation, even if done with the best intentions does not work with sex work. History has shown that over regulation often creates opportunities for exploitation and fails sex workers. Future government regulation will need to be flexible enough to engage with the diverse nature of sex work and the people who work in the industry and like wise sex worker activists engaged in negotiation must also be flexible and pragmatic.
Sex worker activists who speak to government must be realistic in negotiating with orthodoxy in order to achieve the maximum protection for the greater number of sex workers. As sex workers we learn to negotiate in our work and we must use those same skills when negotiating with authorities to achieve a desired outcome. Decriminalisation is not rocket science but to achieve it we need sex work activists with imagination. Activists in turn need the support of an industry that is willing to explain that sex work provides for huge numbers a unique means to an end which hurts few but calms, enchants and pleases many. Sex workers are part of society who do not want honours, rather they prefer anonymity. Sex workers however do want respect and understanding and most importantly protection.