Sex Work is Work

Aren’t we all getting tired of saying this?

Most popular representations of sex work treat it as a deviant lifestyle choice rather than a job.  I’m not just talking about in the media either – so much academic research is based on why sex workers sex work and their lifestyle choices.  Make your own comparisons to other lives and it starts to sound silly… “His parents divorced when he was four so he because a database manager“.  Why are we constantly pressured into justifying sex worker status but not so much for other occupations?

I, of course, realise that in a legal and political context sex work is not treated as work. Sex workers are not afforded the same worker rights as others in more mainstream labour roles and suffer stigma and potential violence because of this.  This is why sex worker advocates continue to fight for sex work to be recognised as economic labour. The first step is decriminalisation! And it is a fight worth having.

But I am not going to reiterate the arguments for sex work being recognised as work here. Above all else they have been so eloquently argued elsewhere. See the lovely Gemma Ahearne’s earlier piece, Sex Work IS Work, for a thoughtful summary.  But also, it is becoming tiring having to address this issue as a justification for studying sex work as work.

So why am I writing a blog post about NOT discussing an issue?

This is my first blog post and I wanted to start from a place that forms the basis of the PhD research I’m completing. The research assumes that sex work is work and, as such, should be researched in the same way we research other forms of labour in more formal economies. The evidence I have collected so far clearly demonstrates that sex work as a form of labour is comparable to more mainstream work.

This has also been addressed elsewhere. @LauraAgustin published an article in 2005 entitled New Research Directions: The Cultural Study of Commercial Sex. Not all will have access to this academic journal but she calls for a more nuanced understanding of the industry through research which understands that sex work is culturally placed; a fact which is often sidestepped in order to debate the wrongs or rights of prostitution.

So forgive me for leaving the sex work is work debate to others. Instead I’m calling for more research and commentaries to just start talking about it as if it is work. Without the justification. Hopefully the government, councils and other official bodies responsible for morally regulating the work will catch up.

(Oh, the irony of justifying the omission of a justification).



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