young white woman gesturing Break The Bias in support of International Women's Day with female friends

International Women’s Day: Celebrating the strength and resilience of sex workers

This International Women’s Day we’re taking a moment to celebrate the strength and resilience of sex workers worldwide and those closer to home in the UK.

We’re focusing on the best ways we can challenge stereotypes, raise awareness, and show appreciation for sex workers. From educating yourself to building inclusive communities, there are many things we can do to achieve equality for sex workers. 

Even though we’re focusing on women to celebrate International Women’s Day, it’s important to note that not all sex workers are women. Sex workers span all gender identities, and we celebrate this diversity every day. Promoting equality and a sex-positive environment is important to us, and we’re always cheering for the success of strong women and non-female sex workers. 

Ready to learn? Scroll down to celebrate sex workers and to find out more.

How do sex workers show resilience and strength?

Sex workers are amongst the strongest people worldwide. To celebrate escorts this International Women’s Day, we’re looking at how they show up with resilience and strength for inspiration.

Many sex workers have built inclusive communities for anyone involved in the industry. These in-person and online groups act as support networks, allowing workers to discuss and vent about the challenges they face. The groups also offer practical assistance, emotional support, and solidarity for the community, and some even host events such as the Sex Worker Breakfast.

Other organisations that hold regular meetings also include:

  • English Collective of Prostitutes hold regular meetings and events in London and other cities, including workshops, training sessions, and legal advice clinics
  • Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM) regular events and workshops on a range of topics, including sex work and the law, sexual health, and media representation
  • Scot-Pep provides support and advocacy for sex workers in Scotland. They campaign for the decriminalisation of sex work and provide support for sex workers who have experienced violence or abuse. They also provide training and resources for healthcare professionals, police, and other service providers
  • Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) is a support organisation for sex workers in Ireland. They provide information and resources on sexual health, legal issues, and workplace safety. They also campaign for the rights and safety of sex workers in Ireland

Sex workers also develop self-care coping strategies to unwind and relax after work. From creating work-life boundaries to indulging in activities that bring them joy, many sex workers have created resilient routines that nourish their physical bodies and mental health.

Sex work isn’t just about client meetings. The job also entails marketing, bookkeeping, admin, and so much more. Sex workers use a variety of skills to keep their businesses thriving, showing their strengths and resilience to market conditions.

Daily challenges that sex workers navigate 

Though sex workers show up with immense strength, they do face challenges on a daily basis. Here are some common problems sex workers face in the UK and across the world:

Since the world can sometimes seem as if it is set up against sex workers, accessing necessary services and assistance isn’t so straightforward. Luckily, resources are available from dedicated teams to help sex workers navigate these problems with strength and fight for their rights simultaneously.

Let’s celebrate International Women’s Day by standing up for sex workers and their rights. 

How can we raise awareness of these challenges?

There are multiple ways to raise awareness of the daily challenges that sex workers face on a daily basis. This International Women’s Day, we’re working together to raise awareness of these issues to create a more equal society. 

Alongside some of the suggestions above, you can raise awareness by sharing knowledge via social media. Social platforms are one of the most powerful tools we have, so share articles, stories, and videos, and use hashtags to educate your online community. 

You can also raise awareness by talking with your close friends and family. Change starts in your local community, so don’t shy away from the topic when it comes up. Stand up for sex workers and their rights.  

campaigners protest against raids on sex workers in London and demanding better protection

How can we challenge stereotypes and celebrate sex workers?

It’s crucial to challenge negative stereotypes and show appreciation for sex workers, and International Women’s Day is the perfect day to get started.

This creates a more inclusive and equal society, and we’ve got some tips to help you get started: 

Always listen to sex workers

Elevating their voices and stories is the best way to give them a platform, especially as many mainstream news outlets censor their activism. You can listen to sex workers by following their social media accounts and blogs or by communicating via forums.

Keep educating yourself and your community

There’s a lack of education surrounding sex work, and it’s not happening in schools or universities. So, you must research online and challenge the ideas fed to you by mainstream media sources. Watch documentaries, read books, and attend non-profit-led educational events. 

Support sex worker-led organisations

Especially ones based in your local area. This will give the organisations more visibility, and thus more sex workers will be able to access their resources and support. 

Fight for nationwide policy changes

Sex workers are constantly campaigning for policy changes to protect their rights and safety in hopes that these will reduce the stigma in the long run.. Work with sex workers and organisations to make these campaigns heard. 

Influential female sex workers you should know

To celebrate these strong women, we’re highlighting some of the influential female sex workers throughout history. Each of these sex workers has made a significant impact on the public perception of sex work and has worked to improve the rights and conditions of sex workers in the UK and beyond.

If you need a little inspiration, just look at these women and their stories:

Cynthia Payne

Cynthia Payne was a British brothel keeper who gained notoriety in the 1970s and 1980s for running a sex party business in her home in Streatham, South London. She was arrested and prosecuted several times, but her unconventional lifestyle and advocacy for the decriminalisation of sex work made her a well-known figure in the UK.

Belle de Jour (Brooke Magnanti)

Brooke Magnanti was known under her pseudonym Belle de Jour until her identity was revealed back in 2009. She wrote a popular blog and book about her experiences as a sex worker. Her writing was considered to be both insightful and humorous and helped to break down some of the stereotypes surrounding sex work. She has since become an advocate for sex workers’ rights and has spoken out against the stigma and discrimination that sex workers face.

Charlotte Rose

Charlotte Rose is a British sex worker and activist who has campaigned for the decriminalisation of sex work. She has spoken at conferences and protests and has worked with various organisations to improve conditions for sex workers in the UK. In 2013 she also won the Sex Worker of the Year award at the Sexual Freedom Awards.

Molly Smith

Molly Smith is a British sex worker and activist who has been involved in campaigns to decriminalise sex work and improve working conditions for sex workers and has spoken at numerous events and rallies. She has also co-written the book Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights with fellow sex worker Juno Mac, which calls for full decriminalisation of sex work.

Laura Lee

Laura Lee was an Irish-born sex worker and activist who campaigned for the rights of sex workers in the UK. She founded the Escort Agency Owners Association, which provided support and resources for sex workers and helped to improve working conditions in the industry. Lee was also a prominent voice in the fight against the introduction of the Nordic Model in the UK, which criminalises the purchase of sex.

Josephine Butler

Josephine Butler was a Victorian-era feminist who campaigned for the rights of sex workers and the abolition of the Contagious Diseases Acts, which allowed for the forcible medical examination of suspected prostitutes. She founded the Ladies National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts and worked to expose the hypocrisy and double standards of the Victorian moral codes.

Margo St. James

Margo St. James was a British-born sex worker who became an activist for the rights of sex workers in the US. She founded COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics), a group that advocated for the decriminalisation of prostitution and the end of police harassment of sex workers. St. James was also involved in the feminist movement of the 1960s and 70s and worked to challenge the sexist attitudes and policies of the time.

Juno Mac

Juno Mac is a British sex worker and activist who has campaigned for the decriminalisation of sex work in the UK. She is the co-author of the book Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights, which examines the history of sex work and the challenges faced by sex workers today. Mac has spoken at numerous events and rallies and has worked with organisations like the English Collective of Prostitutes or SWARM to advocate for the rights of sex workers. 

Tilly Lawless

Tilly Lawless is a queer British-born sex worker based in Sydney, Australia. She has worked as an escort and a brothel worker and has become a prominent voice in the fight for the decriminalisation of sex work in Australia. Lawless has spoken out against the stigma and discrimination faced by sex workers and has worked with organisations like the Scarlet Alliance to improve working conditions for sex workers.

Across the pond, even renowned Hollywood celebrities proudly advocate for sex worker’s rights and openly talk about their past in the industry:

Cardi BCardi B

Before making herself a household name, Cardi B was an exotic dancer who only rapped on the side. Cardi was employed at a strip club from when she was 18 to 2015 when her music career started to gain traction. Cardi is outspoken about her time in the industry and continues to normalise the job for women worldwide.

Lady GagaLady Gaga

Similarly to Cardi B, Lady Gaga used to strip and dance in burlesque shows before embracing music. Lady Gaga has spoken candidly about her experience, and she continues to make sex-positive music today.

Carmen ElectraCarmen Electra

Another famous lady to start their career in exotic dancing is Carmen Electra. However, Carmen still owns her sex work today and has released striptease workout videos and sells branded home stripper poles.

Rosanne BarrRosanne Barr

Did you know Rosanne Bar was an escort before working in Hollywood? Today, Rosanne is outspoken about her pro-sex work views and continually fights for sex workers’ rights and decriminalisation. 



Supporting sex workers on International Women’s Day and beyond

International Women’s Day is all about celebrating gender equality and women’s achievements. So today, take a moment to explore sex work activism media and listen to sex workers’ stories. Taking time to listen and learn is essential, and there’s no better day to get started. 

However, showing true allyship to sex workers takes more than listening to them for a day. 

To show support for sex workers beyond International Women’s Day, get involved with UK-based advocacy groups. In the UK, there are countless groups that continually fight against stigma and provide resources for sex workers.

Whether you donate, attend events, or simply read their resources, these official groups are the best to start with:

Creating a more inclusive & supportive society for sex workers: Actions you can take

Going forward, focusing on an inclusive and supportive society for sex workers is vital. Here are the key actionable points you need to remember and explore to make a change in your local community and beyond:

  • Support sex worker-owned organisations
  • Address stigma and discrimination, whether online or in-person
  • Promote fair and equal healthcare
  • Fight for decriminalised sex work
  • Offer economic opportunities (such as providing training and financial assistance)
  • Elevate supportive communities and offer emotional support

the phrase " I'm a sex worker " on a banner in women's handThe takeaway

Building a fairer world takes time and strength. But it’s time to get started. This International Women’s Day, take time to build your knowledge, start engaging with sex workers, and spend some time building your allyship. 

While we appreciate sex workers’ strength and resilience, we’re focusing on creating a society where they don’t face adversity. Find more resources on our blog.

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