Debunking The Stigma Of Sex Work

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Everyone has sex, it is literally fundamental to human survival. Humans are one of the only species on the planet that use sex as more than just a means of reproduction, but for pleasure. The majority of modern music is based around sex, the majority of films or TV shows will contain some form of romantic or sexual content, our entire existence is because of sex. 

In today’s fast-moving society, one of the biggest forms of stress release is sex, and not everyone has time for long-term commitments. This is where sex work comes in. There are so many variants of sex work. Pornography, solicitation, explicit modeling, and to an extent escorting. These are all well-known professions within society, but all of them come with their own complications and stigmas. Basically, these are like any other jobs. You turn up, work, and get paid. No one is harmed, there’s no threat to greater society and there’s no risk of health problems if properly regulated. So, let’s talk about the illegality of sex work within the UK. 

This topic runs much deeper than just the profession, it is deep-rooted in misogyny and sexism that leads to females, in particular, being shunned and shamed. The sexism that women face regarding sex is still prominent to this day, with women being criticized for enjoying sex more casually, unlike men.  There are many terms that are well known within society that have become derogatory for women that embrace their sexuality, be it for their profession or for pleasure. There is this unspoken truth that women are men’s property and only men are to embrace their sexuality, as sex is after all, purely for men. Sex no longer becomes a mutually beneficial transaction, but instead for the benefit of men.

Men embracing their sexuality is seen as the norm and can often be ridiculed for not doing so, with expectations of women being on the contrary. This has led to sex work being a taboo subject. The stigma behind sex work is that it is someway degrading or requires a lack of morals to achieve. It is seen as a profession that is dirty or promiscuous. The interesting idea behind this is the intense hypocrisy that comes with the stigma against sex work. The appreciation of sex work is subtly admired and enjoyed by a large portion of the population, predominantly men. Yet, it is also predominantly men that shun women that embrace their sexuality. Men will happily enjoy pornography or erotic dancing but will not be happy dating or associating themselves with a female that partakes in either of these professions. These women are seen as disposable by men, their purpose is for sex and that’s acceptable, but they’re not good enough to acknowledge on a personal level as they have become a commodity. Women have also become just as guilty of this by “slut-shaming” other women for being more promiscuous and freer. The irony here is that women can actually be subject to sexism from other women, making the industry even more controversial.

In the UK, solicitation is criminalized. Many millennials see this decision as highly controversial, openly oppose the profession being outlawed and have coined the phrase “sex work is work”. Pornography is a highly lucrative industry, and the mere difference between that’s made by the presence of a camera determines whether it is pornography or solicitation. If solicitation requires the same level of regulation, cleanliness and management as the adult film industry, then it is arguable that sex work would be safer than the casual hook-ups that many people within the younger generation have come to partake in. Pornography is often a celebrated industry by the masses. The arguable difference between this and sex work is that porn stars are paid actors, whereas prostitutes are paid for sex. This is highly questionable as the root of both industries is seeing sex as a consumer product. Women embracing their sexuality and being “slut-shamed” is an outdated notion that needs to be pushed aside. Women should be allowed to embrace their sexuality just as much as men.  

Our generation is one that has allowed sex to be a more open topic through the expletives of the music industry and the easy access to pornography. There is one platform, in particular, that is potentially acting as a gateway to debunking the sex work stigma, OnlyFans. This platform has allowed both amateur and professional pornographic actors to create their own content in exchange for subscription payments. OnlyFans is commonly known amongst the younger generation and has been a way of people being able to embrace their bodies. Any arguments that are made against such professions are, again, based on stigma. There are few people that will create a valid argument against it without it being opinion and preference-based. 

OnlyFans has also made way for many females to monetize their sexuality leading to high lucrative careers and financial steppingstones to a more long-term career alongside being a content creator. Many women now openly embrace their sexuality through OnlyFans, which is supported by prominent artists such as Cardi B, Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion being vocal about female empowerment and sexuality in their music.  Times are changing and the discussion around sex is becoming more acceptable and sex work is becoming more common. With the help of notable platforms and a more progressive generation, there is little holding back the legality of sex work besides stigma, outdated views and the older generations in power. With time, the stigmas will be broken down and sex work could again become a part of society. 

The legalization of sex work would lessen the ability of sex traffickers to take advantage of sex workers. The industry would need to be highly regulated and the majority of sex workers would be able to move into the new industry and feel much safer. This would reduce the financial appeal of sex trafficking as sex work would be more overtly and readily available. This could therefore help to solve the moral dilemma of the sex work industry, allowing workers to have control of their own bodies.

A large proportion of sex workers are often migrants. With the illegality of sex work, human trafficking is made easier due to the low economic status of the workers and the pressure put on them to find work. This often means the entering the sex work industry is an involuntary choice and leads to the workers being taken advantage of. With it being legal, it would mean that foreign nationals would have the option to enter the industry of their own free will. It would also allow for foreign nationals to gain citizenship if they were moving for work, as they would have legal and taxable income instead of it being a covert profession. 

The arguments for sex work to remain illegal is its contribution to the modern-day slave trade and it being fundamentally demeaning. Well, the first argument can already be countered as it’s evident that the illegality of soliciting has actually made the conditions worse, and the idea of sex work being demeaning is subjective and outdated. The days where solicitation was legal was a time where sexually transmitted infections were rife and a common occurrence, with medieval methods of testing and curing such conditions. As well as being a predominantly Christian country. Today, sexual health is openly taught and encouraged and so the regulation of the sex work industry would be much easier to manage. (If you’re reading this and are due to a test, please book one. If you’re having sex with people you don’t know well then, it’s better to be safe than sorry). In addition to this, religions’ lower prominence in society has allowed sex to be a more celebrated practice.

Whilst it can be argued that the legalization of solicitation enforces the idea that women are disposable and for men’s amusement, this is also subjective. Many women freely enter the industry and are happy doing so. It is their way of being in control of their bodies and earning an above-average living. The client leaves happy, as does the worker being paid. It may never be a profession that is actively encouraged, but as a mass-market service that is consumed by most of society, it makes sense to cut out the middle man and welcome sex professions into the modern day. 

The baseline comes down to consent. The industry is seen by some as highly anti-feminist due to its nature of still seeing women as property. But it is a woman’s choice to do what she wishes with her own body. Sex work could be seen on the contrary, as empowering for women. Their ability to capitalize on expressing their sexuality is something that should be celebrated. It is giving women the power to do as they please. The illegality of such could be seen as another form of oppression, as women are being told what they can and cannot do with their bodies, mainly by men.

My personal opinion is that sex workers would be safer it was decriminalized, sexual health could improve due to better regulations, and another taboo subject for the sake of being taboo can start to be normalized. If women choose to enter the industry freely then they are choosing what they wish to do with their own bodies. Embracing sexuality is not something that should be frowned upon, it should be actively encouraged. It is natural, and if an individual is choosing to capitalize on that by themselves, they should have the ability to do that.