Recommended reading for non-sex workers
Familiarise yourself with some of the issues by reading what sex workers say about sex work. You could start with some books. Here are some I have found useful:
- Taking the Crime Out of Sex Work : New Zealand Sex Workers' Fight for Decriminalisation - Edited by Gillian Abel, Lisa Fitzgerald, Catherine Healy and Aline Taylor (eds.)
- Sex work Now - Edited by Rosie Campbell and Maggie O'Neill (eds.)
- Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry - Laura Agustin
- Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work - Melissa Gira Grant
Some websites by and for sex workers:
- The Honest Courtesan
- Scarlett Alliance - The Principles for Model Sex Work Legislation
If you’re a Twitter user, you could consider following (but not harassing!) these individuals. Try at first to observe quietly and learn gradually by yourself, rather than targeting them with uninformed assumptions
- Laura Augstin - @LauraAgustin
- Tara Burns - @THEecowhore
- Dr Brooke Magnanti - @belledejour_uk
- Mike Crawford - @BringMeTheAx
- Melissa Gira Grant - @melissagira
- Laura Lee - @GlasgaeLauraLee
- Paris Lees - @ParisLees
- Juno Mac - @fornicatrix
- Mistress Matisse - @mistressmatisse
- Maggie McNeill - @Maggie_McNeill
- Frankie Mullin - @frankiemullin
- Elizabeth Nolan Brown - @ENBrown
- Molly Smith - @pastachips
- Charlotte Shane - @CharoShane
NB these are all somewhat anglocentric, although many of them do signal-boost voices and issues of sex workers in non-English-speaking countries and the Global South. Some very strong sex workers' rights organisations are typically overlooked by white people who visit their countries to ‘rescue’ people from poverty and particularly from sex work.
If you have strong opinions that ending demand by criminalising clients (aka the Swedish or Nordic model) will somehow help sex workers, you should start your reading here:
In short, the Nordic Model continues to criminalise sex workers working together for safety (as that can be considered ‘promotion of prostitution’), sex workers have been evicted from their homes under the Nordic Model and migrant workers have been deported when they have reported crimes against them - including rape - to the police. The Nordic Model does not decriminalise sex work by criminalising clients. It makes it harder and more dangerous for sex workers to operate and in none of the countries that it has been tried has it eradicated sex work. The Nordic Model also continues to stigmatise sex workers further undermining their human rights.
Which leads to the next section.
Smart People, Stupid Questions
The following are some of the responses I've heard to my project:
"No one truly chooses sex work."
"How can someone have sex for money with strangers?"
"They are all on drugs."
"They are all abused."
"But surely the best way to stop violence against sex workers is to outlaw sex work?"
"No one wants their daughter to be a prostitute."
Or rather, these are statements repeatedly made by people with no knowledge of sex work. Although some people start with questions, it's very clear they don't actually listen to any of my answers, and they frequently make exactly the same statement at the end of the conversation.
If any of these statements are your starting point when thinking about sex work, you might want to reflect on why you have these assumptions in the first place, and whether these attitudes are based on actually talking with and understanding the people you want to support.
If you really want to do something practical about giving people genuine choices, pay more tax and support the funding of education and social services. Maybe abolish student fees, pay more for your designer clothing, pay more for your food. If you support organisations that engage in 'awareness raising' and attempt to 'rescue' sex workers by helping them find low-pay low-skill jobs, know that this won't stop them from working in the sex industry, won’t keep them safe, and won’t improve their lives.