Prostitution is found in almost every culture, yet the topic is still taboo, and people still look at sex workers as heinous criminals. Society holds biases against people like me who do sex work without ever trying to know about the reasons we do it.
Many sex workers choose to participate in sex work to explore and express their sexuality, while some participate in sex work due to its flexible working conditions. Some individuals don’t have the luxury of choice and pursue sex work due to poverty, inadequate education or lack of an economically viable job.
I do it because I am really good at what I do. It makes me feel alive. Like any job, my work requires skills like creativity, emotional intelligence and time management.
Often sex workers are respected confidantes, making sex work one of the more acceptable forms of therapy for stressed-out professionals. My clients have always respected and valued me for my services. During, and even after, the physical intimacy, they respect my body and my feelings and want to make sure I’m comfortable with what they want to do.
It can be a very strong bond that we form with our clients. Many of mine struggle emotionally because they have lost loved ones or are going through a rough relationship or career crisis. They need someone else's perspective on life, with whom they can be honestly themselves, and let someone else be in control of their existence for a moment.
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Sex Workers’ Rights Are Nonexistent in Most Places
Society has historically used words like “sex worker” and “prostitute” as insults, a way to treat individuals as second-class citizens. They treat us as not worthy enough to even glance at, let alone talk to.
Even normal tasks like getting an apartment are very challenging for us. I am completely devoid of a social life—nobody wants to be my friend, nobody wants to even have a normal conversation with me. It’s hard. Having to depend on oneself for everything, and not having friends and family to talk to, is emotionally debilitating
In the Netherlands, which legalized its sex trade in 2000, all sex work is performed through businesses, and the rights of employees are very well respected. It’s perfectly legal for driving instructors to offer lessons in return for sex, as long as the students are over the age of 18.
Like it or not, there’s nothing inherently wrong with prostitution. What is wrong is how people like me are treated in places like India, where sex workers are often labeled as less than human, both in cultural attitude and in public policy. We are often forced to operate out of dingy houses in seedy neighborhoods, without proper protection or oversight.
Support Sex Workers by Giving Them a Voice
Society's judgments and biases are reserved for sex workers, and not for the people who pay for sex. There is a huge demand for it everywhere—in India, in London, in New Zealand, in Australia. In the pre-pandemic era, clients used to have to book my services two months in advance throughout the year.
During the pandemic, when there are so many becoming unemployed or jobless, nobody is talking about the situation for sex workers. Just like other jobless people, we are also suffering financially to cover our basic expenses. All my savings of the last five years are on the verge of being exhausted. I have no idea how I’ll survive if the pandemic continues for much longer.
I imagine a world where we will be treated as normal humans, worthy enough of the respect given to others and the right to live with dignity. Individuals can help sex workers by not devaluing our work and the effort that we put in. This means not using derogatory terms, like calling people a whore for the way they look or the sex they have. It extends to not saying things such as, “Ugh, I’m going to drop out of university and become a hooker,” because our work is not easy, and for some people in our industry, it isn’t empowering or enjoyable, but a necessity in order to feed ourselves.
Of all the ways to respect sex workers, the most effective might be just listening to our stories and experiences and thus empowering our voices. Sex work is work, and sex workers are workers.