Listening to Sex Workers

A few years ago I didn’t know what I thought about sex work.

I’d seen Secret Diary. I knew that there were pro-sex work feminists. I thought they had an argument.

So I listened for their argument, and what I heard was “Listen to sex workers.”

So I listened, and I heard “No, not those sex workers, those sex workers shouldn’t be allowed to speak.”

And I heard “Feminists who oppose sex work are whorephobic.”

And “Feminists who oppose sex work are pearl-clutching prudes”

And “Feminists who oppose sex work only oppose sex work because they are stuck up White Feminist bitches who know nothing about suffering and don’t give a shit about sex workers.”

Hmmm, I thought, but I kept listening, I kept thinking there had to be more.

I thought there had to be an argument. An argument that dealt with why what some women thought was harmful wasn’t really that harmful.

And I heard, “Sex work is only harmful because of the stigma of whorephobia, and whorephobia is made by feminists.”

And “That’s why whorephobes shouldn’t be allowed to speak (even if they are/were sex workers).”

And “Feminists who oppose sex-work are privileged bitches with tons of money and influence and they use their power to spread nasty whorephobia around and THAT’s why sex work is dangerous.”

And above all, I heard ‘SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP.”

And after listening for some time I thought:

“If you want to talk to me about harm reduction, I will hear you.

If you want to say that sex work is not harmful to all sex workers, but recognize that others with the same experience disagree with you, I will hear you.

If you want to tell me women are driven to sex work for financial reasons, but don’t insist that financially coerced consent is a super free choicy-choice, I will hear you.

If you acknowledge that harm to sex workers is not just caused by stigma, but has something to do with men, I will hear you.

But if all you’ve got is this flat-out denial of entitled male violence and an incessant drive to pin it all on other women, when I listen to you, what I hear is bullshit.”

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