11 Secrets of a Sex Worker
ations to justify their anti sex work narrative and for governments to justify anti sex work legislation. Trafficking however, is a lot more complicated than the simplistic story that is being told to create a moral panic.
Legal and illegal migration for sex work to the UK, within the UK and within most countries, is classified as trafficking. Any third party facilitating in any manner the travel for any consenting sex worker, even a UK national, to an appointment to sell sex within the UK can, for example, be prosecuted for trafficking offences. The recorded evidence however, is that the percentage of sex workers trafficked into the UK (or elsewhere) against their will and forced to sell sex is negligible. The numbers forced to work, sold into slavery in other industries, such as construction, farming, domestic service and even catering are far higher.
There is a growing immigration crisis facing all of Europe, both legally and illegally. It is essential that, within the context of sex work, consent is recognised and that the adult sex worker is not infantalised by legislation determined to make them victims to satisfy a moral and political agenda.
Q5 – Won’t decriminalisation of sex work mean that children will be encouraged to think that selling sex is a proper and legitimate profession?
There is no evidence from New Zealand, where sex work has been decriminalised since 2003, that the numbers of sex workers have increased. The official numbers have remained very stable since decriminilisation and New Zealand is recognised as the best country in the world in which to work as a sex worker.
Decriminalisation of sex work does not mean that children or adults can be coerced into selling sex by individuals or by the state, it simply means that adults who do sell sex have the protection of the law and choices about how they choose to work safely. No one has ever suggested that decriminalisation would mean that sex work becomes an option for careers advisors or that job seekers should be forced into sex work or lose their benefits. These are scare stories. Decriminalisation simply allows adults who have chosen sex work to work within the law, with the support of the law and with the right to access the same state support structures as every other worker.
Q6 – Aren’t most sex workers survivors of sexual abuse who started selling sex as children?
There is no evidence to support this story, although, it is a popular and much repeated myth amongst anti-sex-work organisations who mis-quote research. Evidence tells us that most sex workers began working in their 20’s and not their teenage years (or even younger as some suggest). Are some sex workers survivors of sexual abuse? Undoubtedly yes, just as some nurses are or shop assistants are. Accountants, politicians and your next door neighbour could be too. Being a survivor of abuse of any sort does not pre-condition you to sex work or any other type of work.
Q7 – Sex workers don’t pay tax:
Sex workers are obliged to pay tax the same as anyone else. If you avoid paying tax then you can face the same legal penalties as anyone else. The difference is that sex workers are not offered the same rights or protections or respect legally or within society for paying tax.
Q8 – Are you a happy hooker and therefore not representative?
The media are obsessed with the idea that a sex worker is either a happy hooker or a victim of sex work, whereas the truth is that if you enjoy your work or not is irrelevant.
I enjoy my sex work but that does not mean that everyone else does. Sex work is work and sex workers, like all workers, have good days and bad days and indifferent days. Decriminalisation is about rights for all sex workers and not just those who love their work.
During my 17 years in the sex industy, I have met many sex workers and thanks to my partner running an escort agency for nearly 11 years, I was privileged to meet and work with sex workers from many different socio-economic, educational and cultural backgrounds. It was listening and talking to those sex workers and sharing their experiences that led me into activism. When talking about sex work I often reference my personal sex work experience and academic evidence, and I try to give a voice to the overwhelming majorty of sex workers who work discreetly and anonymously thoughout the UK.
Ultimately every sex workers’ experience is unique but we all experience stigma and prejudice and it is that shared feeling of exclusion that drives us to fight for rights, and for decriminalisation.
Q9 – Sex work is not work:
Sex workers invest in their work. Condoms, lube, sex toys, lingerie, premises, photographs, internet sites and advertising, the list is long and endless. A sex worker prepares both physically and emotionally for a client, performs for the client, relaxes when the client leaves before preparing for the next. That all sounds like a job to me.
Q10 – Isn’t selling sex immoral?
Morality is always subjective, it reflects the culture and social conditioning that exists at any particular time or place in history (or indeed the present.) As a sex worker it is not my job to morally judge anyone.
Provided my clients are of legal age then my job is to provide a service that I consent to and one that the client consents to pay for. I therefore provide a consensual adult service.
Q11 – What do you think about The Swedish Model where sex work is decriminalised but the client is criminalised?
The Swedish Model has failed because it has forced sex work out of sight, has increased social stigma and alienation and by doing so has made sex work more dangerous. It has not ended the demand for sex work which was the ideological position that justified the legislation.
The Swedish government claim that they have reduced sex work, yet acknowledge that they have no proof of how many sex workers there are working in Sweden either before or after their legislation and criminalising clients was introduced. Despite claims made by the Swedish Government that they have decreased demand for sex work we have evidence that the number of massage parlours, where sex is on offer, has increased. Sex worker advertisements are readily available on the internet and there appears to be an increase in the number of foreign nationals that are selling sex which questions the claim made by the Swedish Government that Sweden is no longer a destination for sex trafficking.
Despite the claim that the Swedish sex worker is decriminalised, Swedish sex workers are forced to work alone and they are not able to advertise openly or employ a third party. They cannot legally rent apartments for sex work because when discovered they are evicted, as the apartment owner is liable to prosecution should they be found guilty of renting an apartment to a sex worker. Swedish sex workers cannot access social support, even though being a sex worker is completely legal, unless they exit sex work. Family members can be found guilty of living off the earnings of prostitution, again forcing sex workers to work secretly and in isolation. To enable the authorities to prosecute clients, sex workers are coerced into giving evidence against their clients. This again forces sex workers to work in secret in order to protect their clients, their families and themselves.
The Swedish model was not implimented to help sex workers but to coerce sex workers to exit sex work. The idea was to apply very simplistic economic attrition, by targeting the clients of sex workers the Swedish authorities had hoped to end demand and force sex workers out of business. The reality however, is that sex work continues and indeed flourishes.
Many within Sweden are beginning to question government policy, because of the negative effect the Swedish anti sex work legislation has on sex workers and on attitudes toward women who sell sex, in particular foreign migrant sex workers. Despite the governments ideological position that women in sex work are always victims, regardless of their consent to sell sex, opinion polls suggest that attitudes toward sex workers are becoming increasingly negative, with a majority of Swedes wanting those involved in selling sex criminalised, and not just their clients. Sweden proves that prohibition does not work, other than to push that which is prohibited underground.
The Swedish government ignored evidence and the voices of Swedish sex workers. It was an ideologically motivated piece of legislation, that is why it has failed. Sex workers want legislation based solidly upon evidence and to include the voices of sex workers, with the emphasis upon protection and rights, not on endorsing stigma and prejudice.
These are the most common questions I am asked and I suspect the same questions are asked of every sex worker. I have given my usual responses. Feel free to comment.