Dec 17th is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. But, ending violence is not as simple as shutting down Craigslist Erotic Services section, or opening more shelters.
As long as there’s stigma and silence surrounding sex work, there will be violence against sex workers. As long as the public feels justified in dehumanizing sex workers – either as the helpless victims or the immoral vixens, there will be violence. Much of it behind the scenes, in the dark, never making it to the headlines or to police reports.
This is the real reason why the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers and other work of SWOP and other such organizations are so important. They hold up the light by which the world can see the faces of sex workers – mothers, sisters, daughters and next door neighbors. It’s harder to both prosecute and commit violence against the people who are just like you.
People in sex industry are either portrayed as powerless victims, or demonized as brazen harlots.
Working in and with the sex industry myself for the past 20 years, I have met many empowered, highly educated and strong women (and men) who chose to be there, and a number who are vocal and proud of their calling. Of course, they are usually dismissed as delusional and unknowing victims by the people who oppose sex work, as well as many of the “do gooders” who feel that the only way to help sex workers is to eliminate their source of income (yes, and chop off your head and you’ll never again have to worry about getting a headache) – this is an easy way to keep the simplified “prostitution=evil” view without having to actually reexamine the facts and one’s beliefs. This opinion is just like some “feminist’s” belief that “all sex is violence against women”.
These people I know would disagree:
-An amazing, hot sex worker who retired only at 70 because she loved her work too much. She still sometimes sees her regulars – and some of them have been regulars for more than 20 years.
-A Ph.D. with a great career, who returned to sex work because she missed it, and felt it’s a more rewarding choice.
-A young, angry woman, who gained poise, beauty and confidence doing sex work, and have gone on to college and career suggested to her by her experiences in it.
…and many more.
I know that sex work is not glamorous either. Forget the “Pretty woman”. I have personally known some sex workers who were killed, too. Sadly, three out of four by the people closest to them, not their customers. I’ve also known sex workers who were beaten, strangled, frightened and robbed by their customers, and in the great majority of cases, didn’t report the crime because they were more afraid of police than of criminals.
Yes, there is plenty of crime connected to prostitution. A lot of it would either be reported or go away if prostitution were legal. A legal prostitute would report a rape or robbery to police – if the “Craigslist killer’s” first victim felt safe reporting the robbery, his last victim might have still been alive. Her blood in on hands of everyone who wants to keep prostitution illegal.
It’s not the easiest job in the world. Most who enter it are doing it for money, not the love of the job – *just* like the McDonald’s employees flipping burgers, but at twenty times the hourly rate. Would you be at that desk right now, if you had all the money in the world? If your answer is “no”, you have in a very real sense “prostituted” yourself (your skills, or your body in case of manual labor), just like those sex workers who would rather be elsewhere.
Some of the entities that are run by facts and not the knee-jerk emotions and pious moralizing are already recognizing the realities of sex work as work and recommending the steps to ease sex worker’s burden. United Nations makes a clear distinction between voluntary sex work which should according to their studies be legalized, and involuntary (children, trafficking, forced) which should be prosecuted to the fullest:
UN studies have shown again and again, that, while things are not always “rosy”, legalizing prostitution results in less assaults, rapes and abuse and more health and well being for *everyone* – in fact, one analysis has found that in areas where prostitution is legal, there are less rapes overall, not just among the sex workers!
So, return the favor, and help the fight to end violence against sex workers.
Studies and articles-
UN International Labor Organization on prostitution in Southeast Asia:
“Over a third reported that they had been subjected to violence or harassment, most commonly from the police but also from city officials and gangsters.”
An excellent article on prostitution, with links to various studies.
The argument that legalizing prostitution would be the same as legalizing trafficking and pimping makes as much sense as would the argument that allowing legal drugs (alcohol, tobacco and medicines) increases the trafficking in illegal drugs. In fact, the Prohibition is a good example of a tremendous cost of outlawing a relatively low-harm activity. During the time alcohol was illegal, there were gangs, trafficking, murders and general violence (homicide rates increased OVER 66%), all of which went down with the ending of Prohibition.
Rape rates correlated with availability of prostitution
Pornography, Rape and the Internet – “..the results suggest that a 10 percentage point increase in internet access is associated with a decline in reported rape victimization of around 7.3%.”
You can find a number of papers listed about decriminalization lowering overall crime at Decriminalize Prostitution Now Coalition