OK, Sex Work is Real Work...Now What?
We need to move beyond this slogan.
Art by Exotic Cancer
“Sex work is real work” You’ve heard this before. From AOC, Tiktok, and local undergrad gender studies majors. Maybe you’ve even said it yourself without giving much thought to its meaning.
While prostitution is criminalized and stigmatized in America there’s been a major culture shift in the past decade(s). Some of this shift is due to sex worker visibility in queer media. There have also been great organizing efforts by groups like Decrim Now and SWOP.
As these advances are fantastic we should realize that “Sex work is real work” is not enough. It’s merely a foundation. It does not matter that sex work is real work because America doesn’t give a damn about workers. We especially don’t give much protection to pink collared workers. Nannies, yoga instructors, retail workers, teachers, nurses, beauticians, and all other workers under the umbrella of the pink collar have little labor protection tantamount to their white-collar skill equivalents.
From an American perspective, it’s instinctual to center sex itself within the fight for sex workers’ rights. Our country is…for lack of better words, fucked. I’m not suggesting that the American sex workers’ rights movement divorce itself from all mentions of sex, either. It’s just imperative that we expand the conversation. Sexual oppression is a factor in the marginalization of sex workers. But our oppression is also intrinsically tied to zoning laws, economic migration, race, gender, the carceral state, and the erosion of workers’ rights. These issues are relatable for the majority of the American people.
Overall, the cultural strides in the past few decades have been great. I believe that we’ll have full decriminalization within the next few decades. But Decrim isn’t a panacea. In order to ensure that sex workers have full protection, we need a nationwide movement that seats itself alongside all other workers’ movements. We have far more alike than different.
Sex work is real work doesn’t assign any moralistic attitude to it. It asserts that there’s tons of exploitative bullshit that goes along, like all forms of working-class labor.
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