We hear about political scandals in the news, children going missing, or anything bad happening to another person, unless they are of a profession not welcome by society such as sex workers.
When something happens to a sex worker, we often don’t hear about it. Sex workers can be described as “low risk” victims because their profession is illegal, so often times when they go missing, no one is looking for them or reports them as missing for fear of getting in trouble with the law, according to The Salon (Clark-Flory).
According to the Green River Killer who killed approximately 48 people, most of whom were sex workers and underage runaways, he picked his victims because “they were easy to pick up without being noticed,” (Gary Ridgeway).
Prostitution is illegal in every state except for some counties in Nevada. The criminalization of sex work puts these citizens in danger for fear of being arrested or taken from their families.
In 2003, New Zealand decriminalized prostitution. According to a study done five years after the legalization, it was found that sex workers felt safer in reporting abuse and sex trafficking rates decreased (The Washington Post).
Placing acts like that into effect decreases the abuse that often occurs towards sex workers. With the 2020 election coming up, candidates have brought criminal justice reform to the table.
However, two of the biggest presidential candidates, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, have remained completely silent about the topic.
According to Vice News, when Sanders was asked his view on the decriminalization of sex work he said, “Didn’t have an answer,” and that it was “certainly something that should be considered” (Solis).
Warren commented that she is “open” to a new change in policy. Many more voters that are liberal are dissatisfied with these lackluster responses from two of the top candidates.
It doesn’t help that this profession is painted in a negative light. The common belief about sex workers is that they hate their jobs or were forced into sex work, but that couldn’t be more untrue.
A common slogan used by people advocating for sex workers is “We don’t need to be saved.” This is reiterating that sex workers are not stuck or that they are in the profession not by choice.
Vice News did an interview with two sex workers/advocates and sat down to set straight common misconceptions about sex work.
They explain that because sex is something that is expected for free, it is not considered work and therefore is classified as “bad” and doesn’t allow for good working conditions.
The morality issue behind sex work fuels the anti-prostitution movement. Many people have a more conservative idea about sexuality. They believe it is something sacred and not to be shared with more than one person.
Although there is nothing wrong with this view, the issue is forcing this idea on to people who don’t agree with it. Sex workers are mainly in the business for the income it produces. Taking away this right to work in that profession simply continues the cycle of poverty.
According to The Globe Post, sex workers aren’t necessarily wanting legalization, they are wanting decriminalization. The difference with decriminalization is that it removes the criminal penalties making prostitution still illegal, but allows regulation and safer work environment. Legalization would make prostitution completely legal by law with no consequences.
Many activists and celebrities have spoken out about other movements like “Me Too;” however, this started to bring light to sexual abuse in the entertainment business, but also encouraged other victims of abuse to speak up. This movement also extends to sex workers. They are sexually assaulted in their profession as well.
According to a research study conducted in the 90s by two researchers in the San Francisco area, it found that 82% of the 130 prostitutes interviewed had been sexually assaulted since starting prostitution. Of those, 55% of those assaults had been by customers.
Just because the profession revolves around sexual activities, doesn’t mean unwarranted encounters are okay. Sex workers should have the opportunity to report sexual assault just as much as anyone else.
Another popular movement is the “Free the Nipple” campaign, which is attempting to desexualize the human body as a whole, especially women. Amber Rose, a well-known celebrity, hosts an annual SlutWalk hoping to end slut-shaming and stand up for sex positivity.
The more we talk about sexuality and topics surrounding it, the safer communities will feel; not only women as a whole, but people in sex work professions as well.