By criminalizing sex work we are punishing two kinds of innocent people: the sex worker and the client. Observe: you fit society’s standards of beauty – perhaps with a college degree, perhaps not. The average starting salary in this country is $25-35k/yr for 40 hrs a week. You could save money by living with your parents (as many college students and graduates are doing), and take on as many hours of work as you can get. Or, if you so choose, you can work 5-10hrs a week and make $40-50k. The spare time and money can be used to travel and have fun, or it can go back into school and training for another high paying job, or towards charity and volunteer work.
Many of us have heard of young women stripping their way through college, but with strip clubs floundering a!er the smoking ban, charging its workers stage and DJ fees, it’s harder to pay tuition on dancing alone. With the availability and discretion of online personal ads, many sex workers can meet directly with “Johns” at whatever price they set for themselves. This autonomy of the sex worker also makes it easier for the client to be sure he – or she – is with a consenting adult.
Now let’s talk about how criminalization and stigma hurts the client as well. Here is a person who desires companionship but has limitations on obtaining it for free for any number of reasons. They could be so busy that conventional dating doesn’t fit their schedule; they may not fit society’s standards of beauty or be socially awkward; they could be looking for a specific kink that they fear someone they meet through conventional dating would shy away from, but a professional sex worker would do with pleasure and without shaming them. It could be a couple looking for the third for a threesome. A couple could scour the bars or dating sites looking for the right match for years and turn nothing up, or they could hire a professional and skip the emotional or social drama that sometimes occurs in three ways. So obviously it is convenient for this sexual service to be available to those who need it.
What happens if sexual services are kept from those who benefit from it? What about the college kid who shot women he wanted to have sex with but couldn’t? Date rape and date rape drugs. Violent rape. Verbalized misogyny. Without the criminalization and stigmatization, these sexually frustrated men would feel more ok about using the services of a sex worker. It would still remain illegal for those under 18 and in cases of human tra"icking, but more people are tra"icked for non-sexual labor jobs than sex and I see no movement to criminalize housekeeping, gardening, or warehouse work. Unless there’s consistency in the argument then do not conflate consensual sex work with trafficking.
Sex work is o!en a short-term career path, but that does not mean it is not legitimate. Modeling is usually a short term career, as well as very sexualized, with scouts pulling under 18 kids out of malls to capitalize on their looks for as long as they have them. Porn stars and actors perform or simulate sex for money but it’s legal just because it’s filmed? It would appear that we’ve already legalized sex work in so many forms already that to say one form is better or worse than the other is willful ignorance. Consenting adults are allowed to sleep with
whomever they choose on whatever terms they so want, so why not for money? Saying money is not a good reason for doing something is also willfully ignorant. If one wishes to be at all independent or free, then, well, opportunities open up to those with money.
To end with: I’m not trying to convince anyone to engage in sex work. I am simply making a plea for everyone to think about these things logically and question why not sex work?