I am a big supporter of a woman’s right to do sex work.
Last night at a dinner party, discussion turned to strippers and prostitution. Canada is moving to decriminalize sex work – which it has always been until a pool conceived law by a right wing Parliament last year.
The dinner party was a pretty mixed group of people, so the discussion on whether sex work is ‘OK’ got pretty heated. My view has always been that sex work should be legal but regulated. Legal, because people have the right to sell their sexuality. Regulated because they should be safe against exploitation or coercion in that decision.
Some of my friends disagree pretty strongly with this. Fair game – but there reasoning did little to convince me. The arguments against sex work were, as usual, 3 parts ideology/morality; 2 parts anecdote and 1 part (at best) evidence. By this I mean: they think it is morally wrong, they have stories of women who have been exploited by sex work and they make (very weak) evidentiary conclusions based on the stories as opposed the evidence.
The reality twofold: (i) it is fine to feel morally opposed to sex work; I don’t feel this way, but there is a reasonable moral argument against sex work; and (ii) it is wrongheaded to feel that making sex work illegal is help ing woman and current and potential sex workers. The evidence is overwhelming – women are safer when sex work is legal and carried out under a transparent regulatory regime.
So, if you are against sex work, be honest about your reasoning. Its because you think its ‘wrong’. It is not because you cafe about the safety of those who may be doing it.
This view did not go over well. Which led to the inevitable “What if your daughter (I have 2) became a sex worker?
This is a fair question. I had three thoughts:
- It would depend on her reasons for being in sex work. If she’s honestly confident and comfortable with it and doing it because its a good way to earn money And it is not diminishing her ability to have a good relationship and a good life, I might… might… be OK with it;
- It depends on what type of sex work. I would have an easier time with her stripping than being a prostitute.
- Even though I am supportive of sex work, many are not. I would not want my daughter facing the stigmatization of these people who look down on sex workers.
- There are many – legal – jobs I would not want my daughter to have. I wouldn’t want her, as an adult, making minimum wage working at McDonalds. I wouldn’t want her being a sales rep for a cigaret company.
All this to say, however, I may not be as progressive as I thought. While I completed support the right of people to engage in sex work, I do have a quiesiness about the idea that my daughters doing it. When I peel away the layers and the arguments, I think what it comes down to is this: sex is still heavily stigmatized and even for those of us in the sex positive movement, we may still have some of the hang ups and internalized anti-sex perspectives that we were brought up with. We still have work to do.