Violence in Sex Work

I really need to get something off my chest. And the timing is quite apropos given that International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers is only a few days away. Violence. ugh. sigh. I’ve always found this topic a contentious one within sex workering circles- forget the anti-trafficking, right wing-Falwell-y-religious kooks. We have issues within the sex working community. Let’s be real. And we’re very defensive about our issues in an attempt to distance ourselves from the religious anti-prostitution/anti-traffickers, which isn’t helping those Sex Workers who are/have endured violence inside the industry. I am not just a retired Sex Worker, but a researcher and Sex Worker rights activist as well. As a researcher and rights activist who has mostly worked on issues related to violence in the industry, one of the biggest and at first most surprising push backs I have experienced is that of Sex Workers and Sex Worker activists. We don’t want to admit that sex work- consensual adult sex work- may at times get violent (nonconsensual) or have a risk for violence. My experience has been that nonprofits working with Sex Workers don’t prioritize making counseling and/or case management available for Sex Workers so they may process (at very least) the unique work stress that comes with being a Sex Worker. Because we Sex Workers feel like everyone around us (i.e. society) is judging this work, we feel like we don’t want to expose the real, raw, nasty bits that come along with sex work and further fan the nay-sayers’ flames of hatred. Yes, we want the non-sex working, average joe shmoes out there to not have an antiquated, primitive notions of sex work. Of course. Yes, we want our culture and our laws to shift to reflect a more diverse and complex understanding of economics, race, gender and human sexuality.But we should not be silencing those voices whom we do not think are fitting into our mold of what a “liberated Sex Worker” looks or sounds like. People are diverse. Their experiences with sex work are diverse and thusly their relationship to sex work is going to be diverse as well. I think there is so much for us to discuss when we think about violence in sex work. But for me, as a Sex Worker, a researcher and an activist it must start firstly at our front door.

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