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“ABOLITIONISTS, WHAT ARE YOUR ALTERNATIVES?”

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Sex worker is one of the few jobs that represent every socio/economic group within society and it is a job that requires no formal qualifications other than common humanity. What other jobs can claim to be as truly egalitarian? The answer is few, and if sex work is eradicated then we would be a much poorer society, not only culturally, but also financially. No one knows how much sex work generates for the economy or how many livelihoods are dependent on selling sex. All sex workers support a range of people and businesses that rely on them for income. Not only directly, such as agents, maids, drivers, photographers, website designers, web cam and chat line companies, but indirectly there are fetish clothing designer’s, sellers and manufacturers of sex aids, property rental companies as well as the many services within the community who supply and support sex workers, probably often without knowing. If sex workers loose their income then that has a consequence for many thousands who support the sex industry directly and indirectly.

The reality is that anyone can sell sex and by doing so buy food, pay their rent or mortgage or fill their wardrobes with expensive designer clothes if they choose. Selling sex is a vital freedom that moralists want to take away without truly considering the consequences. There are no absolute truths in selling sex which is a multi faceted and diverse industry. Many sex workers for example only sell sex for short periods, with the specific purpose of paying a debt, or as an alternative to taking on debt. Some may, through no fault of their own, find themselves trapped within the benefits system and choose sex work because it pays well, in cash, and offers flexible working hours. Many migrant sex workers turn to sex work, whither they are legal or illegal, because in a foreign country they have more social freedom to choose a job that is flexible, pays in cash, and is, by its nature secretive. Many migrant sex workers in the UK for example are selling sex not only to keep themselves but also their families back home in India or Africa or Eastern Europe? If sex work is abolished as the abolitionists want then what are the alternatives for this diverse range of people?

The so called rescue industry talks emotionally about offering alternative jobs, proper jobs, they claim, to those they think they have saved. Inevitably for the less well educated sex worker or those sex workers who may already be socially disadvantaged, these will be menial jobs, cleaning perhaps or other low paid, labour intensive jobs, or perhaps if they are in Africa the rescue industry may offer a sex worker the opportunity to sell second hand bras donated by privileged white women. In truth however the rescue industry offers unemployment and poverty. Even for educated sex workers the fact that they have sold sex, may mean they have a criminal conviction for doing so, which will negatively affect their opportunities outside the sex industry. The reality for many sex workers exiting sex work is that stigma and prejudice linger long after a person has stopped selling sex, which again is why so many sex workers go to great lengths to keep their sex work secretive, to avoid the press and even organisations that support their choices.

The abolitionists illustrate their emotionalised propaganda with stories of sex workers who have chosen wrongly or who have become the victims of criminal activity, which exists in every industry, but especially industries that are forced to operate in a semi or often totally illegal black economies. They adorn their propaganda with, for example, the emotionalised tales of the drug addicted. What they do not tell you is that for the minority of sex workers who sell sex as a survival strategy, perhaps to feed a drug addiction, is that the alternatives are in truth limited. Rehabilitation is already available, but that only works if the addict chooses to address his or her drug addiction. The truth again is that if you have an addiction then you will have to feed that addiction and selling sex meets that need better than any alternative. This may be an unpalatable truth but it is true. The alternatives for society could be much worse.

Sex work remains however, for the majority, the opportunity to be self employed and self supporting. Sex work offers the flexibility and the income that few, if any, other jobs can, without years of training to obtain qualifications. Until the abolitionists can offer the flexibility and financial rewards of sex work then sex work will remain, as it always has, an opportunity for many and not a trap as they protest.

About Douglas Fox

3 comments on ““ABOLITIONISTS, WHAT ARE YOUR ALTERNATIVES?”

  1. pws (@pws4)
    23 July, 2013

    One of the tricks “abolitionists” pull when talking about sex work is to focus on the sex part and ignore the work part. In this case, I’m primarily talking about anti-sex work activists talking to, or about, women who have voluntarily become sex workers because it was the best career option available to them.

    Well, the arguments they make are all basically around the concept of the evils of female promiscuity. The idea that women who have sex with multiple partners are damaged and seeking validation or self-destruction in such relationships. The reason why “abolitionists” don’t understand the fatal flaw in the argument is because they are privileged enough to view work in terms of “a fun hobby that you do for money.”

    Guess what? Most of the workers in the world don’t view work this way. Few people view going into Wal*Mart, or down a coal mine, or putting out an oil fire, or being a soldier in a war zone, or working in a slaughterhouse as “a fun hobby they do for money.” That’s something people who work in Academia, for QANGOs, or in the government view their work as, it is not the experience of the vast majority of working people on the planet. This leads to a complete disconnect between the people leading the debate (who work in Academia, or for QANGOs or in the government) with the people they are determined to crush.

    Of course, only the most fanatical of antis couch their arguments in terms of abolishing female promiscuity all together. In fact, women who are promiscuous for free and for fun, are pretty safe in this debate. No one talks of criminalizing their partners, or putting them in jail, or sending the for involuntary mental health treatment. (Well, not yet anyway, “First they came for the sex workers…”)

    No it’s only women who are “promiscuous for pay” who must change their evil ways. But then…

    Have you seen how high the rent is? How is she meant to pay it?

    Or how about the car note? If she doesn’t pay that the car will be repossessed.

    Heck, look at the price of gas and groceries.

    Now, there are plenty of sex workers who enjoy their work the majority of the time. Even if they don’t enjoy the work itself, they may enjoy the flexibility that it affords them. There are also some just tolerating the job until something better comes along, but even then they are choosing their best option. I’m happy that some sex workers find their work rewarding, and I think that for those who might not love it but picked it because it was the best job for them even if not their favorite their choice ought to be respected.

    But throwing people out of work because you have no ideas of the realities of the modern economy or of their individual lives? Please get an education!

  2. Frans van Rossum
    23 July, 2013

    Very good. Thanks, Doug. Let me add this:

    The fundamental value of sex work is not so much an economic as an essential human value: a meeting of two human creatures that is triggered by a natural human drive and impulse. This cannot be stressed enough. Sex work exists forever because people need one another in general, and in this case for a personal and physically intimate reason. Fortunately there are people who turn this value into a special kind of work. People who have never either offered or received sexual services never think of this great value. Moralists and puritans who have trouble dealing with sex in general will not understand this value. It seems hard to understand or imagine for anyone who has never offered sex services or profited from it. Sex workers are too rarely asked what they value so much about their work beside the financial rewards. I personally find it invigorating and revitalizing. A strong sense of satisfaction, either by giving or receiving it. Giving can be fun or real labor, but in the end it’s always worth it because it has such inherently strong human values. It makes me smile!

  3. Frans van Rossum
    23 July, 2013

    forgot to say that I find sex invigorating also if the context is not commercial. Nature didn’t give humans the sex drive just for procreation!

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This entry was posted on 23 July, 2013 by in Anti Sex Work, Law, Migration, Politics, sex worker politics, Uncategorized.
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