Sex work is gradually becoming more accepted and normalised in our society but we still have a long way to go before dismantling all the harmful misconceptions about the profession.
To destigmatise sex work, it’s crucial to understand the current stereotypes and challenges modern sex workers face. Tackling these myths through education is vital – and we want to start raising awareness and advocating for sex workers today. And that’s exactly what we are doing this International Sex Worker’s Day.
- Stereotypes and misconceptions associated with sex work
- How society can support the rights of sex workers
- The takeaway
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Stereotypes and misconceptions associated with sex work
We’re spotlighting the top misconceptions and false stereotypes about sex work to debunk them.
Here are the top myths that you shouldn’t believe:
Sex work involves “buying” a sex worker
This misconception perpetuates the dehumanisation of sex workers and what sex work involves. When you hire a sex worker, you’re paying for a specific service, not buying the person. Sex workers use their bodies to fulfil services, which isn’t unique to the sex work industry. Models, personal trainers, and many other professionals also use their bodies for work.
Sex work is gender-based violence towards women by men
This myth assumes all sex workers (and women in general) are victims of men and don’t have the agency to change it.
There are sex workers and clients of all genders and sexualities. A woman can hire a male sex worker, which happens more frequently than many expect. Sex work is also not violence unless it’s non-consensual, and at this point, it’s not part of the work either – it’s harassment or abuse.
Sex workers consent to be treated like objects
Similarly to believing sex workers are “bought”, many people think sex workers permit others to use them like objects. This misconception continues the dehumanisation of objectification of sex workers and sets them up to face more violence, stigma, and victim-blaming.
Sex work isn’t real work
This is one of the more common myths, and it’s not true at all. Sex work is real work, and all sex workers deserve respect, safety, and security while providing their services.
The industry is exploitative
Believing the sex industry is exploitative reduces all sex workers to victims without a choice. While sexual exploitation does exist, it isn’t only an issue in the sex industry, and it doesn’t remove sex workers’ agency to make their own career decisions. There’s a clear difference between sexual exploitation and consensual sex work.
Criminalising sex work makes it safer for sex workers
A common belief is that criminalising sex work will reduce its demand and, therefore, sexual exploitation and abuse. This simply is not true.
Studies and experiments show that criminalising sex work puts sex workers at a higher risk of unsafe practices and violence. It forces sex workers into unsafe working conditions, causes them to rush the screening process, and pushes sex work to dangerous locations.
How these misconceptions contribute to the stigmatisation of sex workers
The abovementioned misconceptions play a significant role in perpetuating harmful stereotypes about sex workers. When people believe myths, it perpetuates prejudice and violence against sex workers, leaving them without respect or societal support.
Until we change the general narrative around sex work, these negative connotations and stigmas won’t disappear – this is why education and awareness are crucial.
How society can support the rights of sex workers
There are several ways society can work together to support the rights and dignity of sex workers.
Firstly, we can change society’s attitude towards sex workers by challenging and dismantling misconceptions. This means disproving and calling out the myths outlined earlier in the blog.
We can then work together to ensure the law protects sex workers. This can happen through regulations and decriminalisation, as sex workers can then access justice without incriminating themselves.
Sex workers should also be able to access healthcare services without stigma. This includes sexual health and any other health services that they may need. These can be hard to access due to stigma and policy.
Society can also work towards providing safe working conditions for sex workers. This could happen through community-based organisations and charity initiatives. Providing sex workers with secure surroundings will also decrease the stigma and show that sex work is real work.
Many charities and organisations are already working towards these goals. They also provide accessible online resources to help you learn how to participate in the fight.
Challenging the misconceptions
Misconceptions play a large part in the stigma against sex workers, and challenging these damaging myths is at the centre of supporting sex workers.
Use these tips and tricks to challenge the misconceptions:
- Demand more accurate sex worker media representation
- Work with sex workers and uplift their voices and stories
- Empower sex workers in your local area
- Work with sex-positive organisations and charities
- Educate those close to you
- Speak up for sex workers when you hear people spreading myths
Even small actions help to reduce the stigma faced by sex workers. Start using these tips today to implement pro-sex work actions into your daily routine.
Though we’re making progress and changing the narrative surrounding sex work, there’s more ground to cover. Hopefully, this blog has inspired you to raise awareness of the misconceptions and why they’re harmful. Share this content with your friends to continue our efforts.
Want to learn more about sex work? Visit our blog for educational content today.