How To Respect Sex Workers

Speradeconomyissuecover300x200$pread Magazine is closing. $pread:

a quarterly magazine by and for sex workers and those who support their rights. We are current and former strippers, escorts, pro-dommes, phone sex and fetish workers, and porn stars of all genders. The magazine has a focus on personal experiences and political insights, and contains practical information like news, features, health columns, and resources related to the sex industry. $pread builds community in the sex trade by featuring the honest and diverse perspectives of those who know it best: the women and men, including transgender persons, who work within this sensationalized, highly stereotyped industry.

Over at Ms. Magazine's blog, Monica Shores from $pread:

Most women have strong feelings about the sex industry, be they for or against. (And many, of course, remain undecided.) When dealing with such an emotionally volatile topic, it’s easy to inadvertently silence or even insult sex workers themselves. (As a participant in sex worker activism for the past four years, I’ve seen that in action and on the page.) There’s a way to debate commercial sex while respecting the industry’s laborers. Here are some suggestions:

1) Don’t diminish or mock sex workers’ agency. When discussing a person coerced or forced into sex work, a sensitive recognition of the violation they’ve suffered is definitely in order. However, it’s important to let individuals themselves make this distinction, rather than automatically assigning them a label that indicates lack of agency. For instance, referring to all sex workers as “prostituted” or “used” can be violating in and of itself if the person identifies their work as a free choice.

Similarly, language implying that sex workers are defiled or disgusting will quickly alienate them—for instance, calling porn an “institution that systematically uses the bodies of subordinate groups as sheer sexual objects at best, and open toilets at worst,” as this Ms. blog comment does. Even abused workers don’t want the public analogizing them to waste receptacles.

There’s a way to recognize the indignities wrought upon another human being without furthering those indignities.

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