Please Include Sex Workers in Your #MeToo Conversations
Dehumanising sex workers doesn't make the issue go away
We have all heard the saying 'prostitution is the oldest form of work', and whilst this statement is very true, society has always looked down on the men and women who engage in this particular line of work. And many still believe the misconception that the job is done out of desperation or because they were forced into it.
Despite all the good the #MeToo movement has brought to us and the justice it has delivered, it is also fueling these misconceptions about sex workers. A handful of ignorant social media users have suggested a solution to stop sexual predators is for them to hire an escort/sex worker when they feel the urge to abuse or attack someone.
This 'solution' is not only dehumanising, it is wrong. Sex workers are not there to be target practice or a punching bag for sexual abusers. They are not an outlet for violence or anger. They are not there to be a victim.
In fact, a sex worker is statistically more likely to experience a form of sexual violence on the job way more than those engaging in any other type of work. However, any type of awareness about how they're being affected is nowhere to be seen in the media (not that I've seen, anyway...)
As a young, 21 year old, single woman, I have a lot of appreciation for how the #MeToo movement has empowered survivors across the globe to publicly share their stories, but the absence of sex workers' #MeToo narratives in the spotlight doesn't sit right with me.
Just like any other labourer, a sex worker will use their body to make money. However they're not covered by the same rights and/or protections. The first step to ending the sexual violence experienced by sex workers is to acknowledge the labour they do as valuable.
On December 17, 2003, there is an international holiday to remember and pay respects to those who have faced violent ends whilst simply trying to make money (International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers). It is especially important to remember black trans woman sex workers that are at a much higher risk of being murdered.
SW'ers are murdered just for doing their job. Imagine that. Imagine working at your office desk, and someone takes your life just because you are working at that desk. The headlines would be filled with stories mourning your death as an innocent victim, simply trying to work. And rightfully so. Yet when it is a SW'er, this empathy is not evident. We brush it off and overlook it. More often than not they'll be the punchline of vulgar jokes, blamed for being in such a dangerous job, and their life just disregarded and forgotten.
Joking about SW'ers and reducing their humanity to next to nothing makes it less safe for them. Queer and trans women of colour doing sex work are far more likely to be violated than their white counterparts simply because of their identity.
Our culture requires a huge change for ALL sex workers, particularly queer, trans, and POC members of the trade, so everyone feels safe and respected. I have made it a personal task of mine to help build a world where sex work is a respected job choice, and isn't seen as a last resort, therefore ending the stigma, and freeing them of all forms of violence.
We must fight against their absence within the #MeToo movement by shouting their stories from the rooftops and lifting them up, supporting them at every chance we have. If you're an aspiring ally to your local sex workers, here are a few ways you can stand in solidarity:
1. Give money and resources to sex work organisers.
SW'ers around the world have been fighting for their liberation for decades now, yet the movement remains stagnant and underfunded. If you want to show any kind of support, you need to be willing to follow and invest in their vision.
Investing doesn't always mean emptying your wallet, although that does help, but sharing links and reposting fundraising pages spreads the messages further, and will attract more donations from people who may not have seen the pages beforehand.
2. Educate yourself and others about what sex work actually is.
It is no secret that the general public need more information about what sex work actually is. This is the only way to crush the harmful myths that surround the industry. Sex workers are human beings. They're mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters with full and productive lives.
"Someone you know is a sex worker—someone you love is a sex worker!" - Sardina, sex-worker and greatgrandmother.
Sardina belives that education is the key to developing an understanding in the realities of sex work. She wants people to see that by decriminalising prostitution you are allowing people to do what they want with their bodies without interference from the government.
SW'ers shouldn't have to have the burden of having to educate every single person aspiring to be an ally. It's important that, if you want to be educated by a sex worker, you pay them for their time. If you want to educate yourselves, there are plenty of resources online.
One way to educate others in your everyday life is to intervene when you hear people slut-shaming or making derogatory jokes about sex workers. Tell them that their words are dangerous and dehumanising. Tell them how they can do better.
3. Do something nice for the sex workers in your lives.
If you know and love a sex worker, do something nice for them. Their work can take an emotional and physical toll on them.
Perform acts of kindness for them so they know you honor and value their labour. Ask them if they need anything, or surprise them with their favourite forms of self care. Just like any other hard worker, they deserve rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation when off the clock.
Being in solidarity with sex workers during the #MeToo era is crucial. The stories being shared by survivors who are sex workers aren't being elevated to the level they deserve to be right now. We need to start prioritising these narratives.
Until we win better laws for the SW'ers in our lives, we who value them and the work they do should do all we can to protect their lives. If you love a sex worker, make it your duty to fight for their dignity, their safety, and their well-being.