Calling prostitution "Sex work" makes the problem worse - It's cover-up language

By: Tom Cloyd - 2 min. read (Published: 2023-07-16; reviewed: 2024-03-241734 Pacific Time (USA))

We need to fix this: “sex work” is a cover-up term for a lot of bad stuff. Stop using this term. Covering up abuse, slavery, pain, degradation does not make it go away, it just distances us from it. That is the exact opposite of what needs to happen. We need to call it by its true names, and fight to bring it and the conditions that promote it to an end.

I offer here four brief quotes, in the hope that it will enduce you to read the whole article linked-to below:

“In what at first glance might seem like a positive (and possibly sex positive) move, the term “sex work” suddenly appears to be everywhere. Even outside academic, activist and progressive strongholds, “sex work” is becoming a widespread euphemism for “prostitution.” It can also refer to stripping, erotic massage and other means of engaging in the sex trade. It’s now commonly used by politicians, the media, Hollywood and government agencies. But make no mistake: “Sex work” is hardly a sign of liberation.

“Why, you might wonder, does exchanging money for sex need a rebrand? Derogatory terms like “hooker” and “whore” were long ago replaced by the more neutral “prostitute.” But “sex worker” goes one step further, couching it as a conventional job title, like something plucked out of “What Color Is Your Parachute?” Its most grotesque variant is the phrase “child sex worker,” which has appeared in a wide range of publications, including BuzzFeed, The Decider and The Independent. (Sometimes the phrase has been edited out after publication.)

“The term “sex work” emerged several decades ago among radical advocates of prostitution. People like Carol Leigh and Margo St. James, who helped convene the first World Whores’ Congress in 1985, used “sex work” in an effort to destigmatize, legitimize and decriminalize their trade. Not surprisingly, this shift toward acceptability has been welcomed by many men, who make up a vast majority of customers. The term subsequently gained traction in academic circles and among other progressive advocacy groups, such as some focused on labor or abortion rights.

“…research from those who work with survivors indicates that only a tiny minority of people want to remain in prostitution. Those who enter the sex trade often do so because their choices are sorely circumscribed. Prostitutes are mostly poor and are overwhelmingly women; many of them are members of racial minorities and immigrants; many are gay, lesbian or transgender. Many, if not most, enter the trade unwillingly or when they are underage.”

This entire article well-researched and well-written - it’s worth your time, and there’s no paywall, if accessed from this link:

Paul, P. (2023, August 17). Opinion - What It Means to Call Prostitution ‘Sex Work.’ The New York Times. - NO PAYWALL


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