To many, the mention of the words “sex work” elicits images of dark and dirty alleyways, cheap motel rooms, and imminent danger. But, sex work has evolved exponentially, even in the last year alone with the popularity of the OnlyFans platform.
So, what exactly is sex work? Sex workers are adults who engage in consensual sexual acts in exchange for money and/or goods. This includes those involved in pornography, cam girls/boys, strippers, and prostitutes. All of these options, excluding prostitution, are legal in the United States.
But despite the fact that they’re legal, that doesn’t mean that the workers within the industry are treated with respect. Many Americans still view sex work as disgraceful and “dirty” and believe that it should all be illegal.
But on a positive note, a recent report found that 52% of Americans are actually for the decriminalization of sex work. We still have a long way to go in ending the major stigma that surrounds the industry, though.
Because prostitution is illegal in almost every state, excluding some Nevada counties, it is also very dangerous. It is an underground network, surrounded by secrecy. Sex workers face violence from their clients, those they report to, and even the police. There are even possible consequences in carrying condoms, as they can be used against them in court. Sex workers are often not taken seriously by law enforcement, which can lead to violence and in some cases, death.
Our country needs to move towards decriminalizing sex work, therefore creating a safer environment for those involved. Skeptical? There are many countries that have decriminalized sex work and others that have even legalized it.
A well-known example is The Netherlands, known for their infamous “red light districts.” Prostitution is legal from glass windows, but not on the streets. And the districts themselves are actually extremely safe and interesting, littered with interesting museums and shops and watched over by the local police.
Now, personally, I don’t think American is ready for this sort of district and honestly, we may never be. There is a certain level of respect within this profession that just isn’t understood in our country. But The Netherlands is a wonderful, working example of how legal prostitution can work safely and cleanly.
What about sex work that is already legalized? Yes, this is also highly stigmatized. Take the example of someone who consumes porn, then shames a person that works in the porn industry. Make it make sense!
People, especially women, who appear in pornography or who have bases on platforms like OnlyFans, are often viewed as sexual objects, rather than people. Many porn actors have come forward to discuss the abuse and mistreatment that they endured while working in the industry. Young women are shamed for making their money from stripping or camming, even though that is the only option for them.
In fact, a majority of sex workers struggle with poverty and find that sex work is the most flexible, well-paying option they have.
This may be hard for some to hear, but there is no shame in doing sex work to support yourself and/or your family. Sex workers risk their safety constantly to provide services to their clients.
Sex is a part of being a human being and by stigmatizing sex work, you’re stigmatizing sex as a whole. Everyone has their own body and they can do whatever they would like with it, even if you don’t approve.