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International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers

December 17, 2010
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Today is the seventh annual day to speak out against violence against sex workers.  Often I don’t have much to add to days like this.  The spokespeople for sex worker issues are some very eloquent folks, and I can’t match the power of personal narratives, particularly when expressed by well-spoken advocates.  But this year I’ve had some experiences that have heightened my awareness of how vulnerable the stigma and criminalization or sex work makes sex workers.  A handful of readers will understand what I’m referring to, and most of you won’t, and I’m sorry that I’m not free to unpack that any further, but I’m just not. 

Whatever one thinks of sex work, I think we should all agree that nobody should have to live in fear because they’ve done, or do, sex work.  Anybody should be able to leave sex work any time they don’t want to do it anymore, and not be labeled and excluded for their past work.  Nobody should be beyond the protection of the law if they are harassed, or stalked or raped or ripped off or beaten up or thrown out of the place they live because they’ve done, or do, sex work.  That’s how it ought to be, and that’s not how it is.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Victoria permalink
    December 18, 2010 10:35 am

    Sex work is violence

    • December 18, 2010 11:28 am

      The problem with that view is that some folks who do sex work, including some women, say that their experiences are to the contrary. I’ve heard all kinds of ways to try to talk around or ignore pro-sex work sex workers’ accounts of how they feel about their work, but all of those amount to either “my theory about your experiences trumps your own actually experiences,” or “your experiences reflect only a tiny minority and therefore I refuse to recognize or respond to what you say about your life.”

      I don’t like that there is sex work, at least on any large scale or as a significant industry, but I know too many women who do or have done sex work of various kinds to just talk past what they say about their own lives. Therefore I feel I must take at their word both people whose experience is that sex work is violence, and people whose experience is that sex work is a job, and conclude that neither sex work not sex workers are a monolith, and no one experience summarizes all sex workers’ experiences.

    • FeministBastard permalink
      December 19, 2010 7:59 am

      Many people believe sex is essentially violence. That it is a dirty dirty thing a man inflicts on a woman. Such assumption leads them to a conclusion that there’s no further harm that can be done to a woman already ‘damaged’ by sexual activity. We see it all the time.

      That’s why I don’t like your blanket statement of ‘sex work is violence’. I don’t know what your intention was, but it CAN be read just like the analogical statement about sex.

      • December 20, 2010 2:38 am

        You know, I think that’s a really good observation. The (horrible) folks who think rape is only about initial penetration and sullied women have a lot in common with the folks who think sex work is by definition violence. In the same way that people who believe the former don’t believe withdrawal of consent is rape because the initial penetration already happened, the people who believe the latter think that anyone who willingly does sex work deserves whatever’s coming to them, that sex workers don’t have a right to better working conditions and freedom from violence.

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