It’s Irrelevant Whether Sex Work is Empowering

Sex workers deserve rights no matter how positive they feel about their jobs.


Sex work is one of the few occupations where people argue endlessly about its moral worth, and even worse than that but these arguments are used to try and deny sex workers basic workers’ rights.

Across the world, countries take different attitudes to sex work than they do with other forms of work, even in the most liberal countries. All evidence shows that decriminalisation is what helps keep sex workers safe. It’s even a position Amnesty International supports.

Yet, still attitudes about sex work dominate the debate rather than evidence. A lot of people argue that many people feel empowered by sex work. This is then used as an argument to support sex workers’ rights. It’s an understandable argument given how much time and energy the anti-sex work crowd put into painting sex work as amoral and irresponsible. It is natural to want to counter this line of argument and to want to defend sex work.

But regardless of how people feel about sex work, workers still deserve the basic rights that people in all other forms of employment enjoy, such as freedom to work without harassment or fear of prosecution.

“Regardless of how people feel about sex work, workers still deserve the basic rights that people in all other forms of employment enjoy”

A lot of people don’t like their jobs in sex work but that does not mean they should not have rights. Lots of people hate their jobs. Ask anyone who has worked retail. Some sex workers might not like their job because they don’t like their clients, their schedule, it’s just something to pay off uni debt. There are huge numbers of reasons why someone might not like their work – but that is applicable to people in every industry.

Whether someone personally likes their job or not is really none of our business. It’s also a peculiar argument that if you don’t like your job you should lose rights. It’s an argument that only grants humanity and respect to middle class people going about their lives in a quiet and morally conservative way. It’s entirely classist and oppressive. Few people can be lawyers or doctors.

There’s no job satisfaction threshold which must be met to rule that certain forms of employment are legal. We need to shift the debate away from empowerment and about human rights. This isn’t a time where the Bible rules. This is not an era where prudishness matters above rights and reason. You don’t have to like sex work even if you are a sex worker. It’s about rights, and that is truly all that matters.

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