Is All Sex Work = Exploitation?

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A hotly debated topic dividing feminists, politicians and society in general.

  • “The usage of the term ‘sex work’ marks the beginning of a movement,” wrote activist Carol Leigh, who coined the term in 1978.
  • In the Netherlands for instance, which is famous for its red-light districts, sex work has been legal in some form since 1830, but was only recognised as a legal profession in 1988.
  • Organisations like Amnesty International argue that sex work slips into dangerous underground conditions if it is illegal, criminalised or both. Some sex workers believe it makes no difference.
  • According to a 2014 study, 1 in 5 sex workers in Canada experience physical and sexual violence, mirroring other data that supports the notion that sex work is a dangerous occupation.
  • A US study found that 78% of all sex workers surveyed said that when police approach them they fear violence, harassment, arrest, humiliation and other concerns.
  • The only places that have decriminalised sex work so far are New Zealand and the state of New South Wales in Australia, although various other places are mulling similar moves.
  • Washington DC and New York state have introduced legislation to decriminalise sex work to some degree, but in states such as Arizona and Florida sex work can result in prison time.
  • The rise of online porn and sex work on websites such as OnlyFans has fuelled debates about whether sex work can ever not be inherently exploitative.
  • Are prostitution, pornography or stripping expressions of female empowerment and sensuality that should be respected like any other profession, or arenas of objectification and oppression?
The Guardian
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5 articles on this topic


Sex workers’ fight for decriminalization, explained

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Mia Khalifa: Porn contracts 'prey on vulnerable girls'

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'I love sex. I like to make money': What sex workers really want

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Megan Barton-Hanson On How to Handle Slut-Shaming

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