The most common sex work myths debunked

Common sex work myths debunked

There are many myths surrounding sex work. Though one of the largest industries that continues to expand, the sex industry is undoubtedly misunderstood.

As a result of this it’s an industry where speculation is rife, leaving many negative first impressions about sex workers in general.

Yet, most of these misconceptions can be instantly debunked – highlighting the reality of what sex work is really like.

Where these misconception stem from

Many people question why such a large thriving industry breeds so many misconceptions?

Most of these myths about sex work largely come from inaccurate

portrayals displayed in the media. In turn, these misinterpretations are damaging to both the industry and each individual sex worker.

We tend to see films focusing on the sex industry as sordid, seedy, and criminal.

When sex workers hit the front-page headlines, it’s often for scandalous or criminal associations.

This negative view creates a stigma whereby people assume to know, albeit incorrectly, what the sex industry is all about, despite having any real knowledge or understanding.

Why inaccurate testaments are harmful

For those working in the sex industry and trying to earn a living, such misconceptions and myths are demoralising.

By creating the idea that sex workers are bad, illegal, or second-class citizens, the problem is that people dealing with these workers will show a lack of care for them.

Potentially more harmful, though, is that this response is an almost invite to those bad clients to treat sex workers with disregard and a total lack of respect.

Many people have worked hard to bring the sex industry out into the open and fought for protective legalisation for all sex workers.

As an example, here at Vivastreet, we’ve created an online space to allow sex workers to advertise their services safely.

But, with such negative attention regularly applied to this industry, the threat is that some sex workers will once again disappear underground.

This bad press also works to shame those clients of sex workers.

For some, the idea of being caught up in such scandals or being named and shamed means they feel less inclined to use the services of a sex worker. In turn, this means less paid work for the sex worker.

Ultimately, the incorrect portrayal of sex workers brings a slur on the reputations of the men and women who make their living in the sex industry. And for women, this is especially disconcerting when it begins to encroach on their basic rights.

Common myths associated with sex work

  • Sex work is sex trafficking …
    The term sex trafficking refers to the criminal practice of illegally transporting people intending to sexually exploit them. Sex work, however, involves people taking part consensually and legally in the sale of sex.

Sex work is often linked to sex trafficking


  • Labels don’t matter in this industry…The term prostitute encourages a slur of negative connotations. While this title was once used widely, the sex industry has worked hard to implement the title sex worker. This ensures there’s no misunderstanding and that by utilising the services of a sex worker, a client is expected to pay.

Incorrect labels for sex work can create negative strerotypes

  • Sex workers are criminals…
    Film and media regularly portray the sex industry as rife with criminal lords, and regular drug users. But most sex workers have never touched drugs in their entire life. In fact, most sex workers have a zero-tolerance policy with clients when it comes to drugs and alcohol.

Sex workers are often associated with criminality

  • Sex workers are women…
    Thought a huge number of sex workers are women, there are male sex workers as well. In fact, experts suggest that as many as one in five sex workers are male.

Many people believe sex workers are women. This is false however.

  • Sex workers are not normal people…
    Sex workers are normal everyday men and women. Some make their profession known. Others prefer to keep their job title private. Sex workers live in normal houses, have families and friends, and shop in the local supermarkets. The only difference is they don’t hop on the bus to what most people consider a standard 9 til 5 office role.

Many people believe that sex workers are not regular people

  • Sex work is illegal…
    In the UK, it is legal for sex workers to sell sex. However, street soliciting (which is highly dangerous) and sex workers selling services as a group (ie via a brothel) are illegal.  Sex workers who advertise their services via an escort website or escort agency site is considered legal in the the UK.

Sex work is often thought of as illegal work

  • Sex workers are single…
    Sex workers can be single, married, in a relationship, a mother or father, a grandparent, separated, divorced, or widowed. The state of a sex worker’s relationship is nobody else’s concern but their own.

Sex workers are thought to be single, however many have families and loved ones

  • All sex work laws help sex workers…
    Though the laws are improving and being constantly challenged, unfortunately, as yet, they don’t offer full protection to sex workers. Sex workers have the right to report any client who behaves violently. Yet, there are still many sex workers left vulnerable, finding themselves criminalised for doing their job.

Not all sex laws work to protect sex workers, although this is improving

  • Sex workers should not be treated the same as other people…
    Sex work for many people is simply a job that pays the bills. Therefore, no matter what other people’s personal opinions on the matter are, sex workers have the right to be treated with the common courtesy and respect as any other person in the workplace.

Sex workers are often not treated like others

  • All sex workers are victims…
    To say a sex worker is a victim insults that person’s decisions to work in one of the hardest industries. Most sex workers don’t refer to themselves as victims; neither do they wish to be identified as one. These men and women have chosen this profession and get paid for their work. To suggest they’re incapable and weak is to undermine their strength in working in one of the toughest of environments.

Sex workers often choose their profession

  • Only certain people use sex workers…
    There is no longer one typical client that uses a sex worker’s services. With more people using the internet to actively seek out sex workers, more men and women are accessing sex workers than ever before. With many people working longer hours, struggling to meet people outside of the workplace, or simply needing human interaction, this is an increasingly popular choice.

Many people believe sex work mean street work. This is not true

  • Sex workers do not use condoms…
    Highly insulting is the suggestion that no sex worker carries protection with them. Now, almost all sex workers will use condoms, often refusing those clients who won’t. Sex workers are always fully aware of the risks of unprotected sex and work to ensure their health remains a priority.

For many sex workers protection against stis is at the forefront, despite common belief

  • Sex is not work…
    Some people believe sex isn’t classed as work – and therefore should not be paid for. This is damaging as it suggests that sex should be offered free in this capacity – yet this is a sex worker’s job. The client wants a service, and the sex worker is legally offering that service. So, just like any other service, it should be paid for.

A common belief is that sex work is not a real profession


Overall, most misconceptions about sex work are formed by those who know very little about how this industry really operates.

Yet, with the inaccurate portrayal constantly shown on TV, in films and highlighted incorrectly by the media, these stigmas, unfortunately, gain momentum very quickly.

The key is to step back and do your research before making any assumptions or judging others by their job title.

Ultimately, regardless of what feelings any of us may have about the sex industry in general, every sex worker has the right to receive a wage for their job while working in a safe environment, which respects their basic human rights.

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