On Surviving Sex Work

by suzyhooker on August 7, 2014 · 38 comments

in Activism, Prostitution, This Time, It's Personal, Trafficking

This post was removed at the author’s request.

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

sarah m August 7, 2014 at 4:48 pm

This is fantastic. Thank you for articulating so clearly why our movement needs to provide space and political representation for workers with negative or traumatic experiences.


Robin D August 7, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Agreed, and I identify.


Robin D August 7, 2014 at 8:20 pm

One thing though, and this is not limited to the author, but what is people’s deal with “survival sex work”? Maybe the name is a misnomer, maybe people just have different definitions, but I always thought it meant “sex for housing, drugs, food, etc.” by, generally speaking, a homeless young person. Some of these people might also be street workers, or work off the internet. But it’s a lot narrower definition than, “can’t just up and leave sex work and get another living-wage job.” That’s how the youth orgs I’m familiar with use it, too.

All in all I still identify with a lot of what the author says.


Caty Simon August 7, 2014 at 8:30 pm

I originally saw it used that way, but I’ve seen it broadened recently to include “sex work in dire and straitened circumstances.”


Sarah August 7, 2014 at 10:45 pm

I think that’s a bit of a reductive definition.

I’m in a position where stopping sex work (or hell, not taking any and all bookings I physically can even if I’m actually dissociating in them, which will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future) would mean rolling over and dying, giving up on anything else I could *ever* do outside of sex work, and leave me in a position where suicide would be about my only option left.

If that isn’t survival sex work, what the bloody hell is?

Robin D August 8, 2014 at 3:38 pm

I don’t mean to discount your suffering at all, and I feel for you and your situation, but there’s another level of desperation there, a desperation that is day-to-day. Not seeing a future for yourself is awful, and dissociating in all your work is awful, but there can be more on top of that. And you know what, I don’t care all that much how people use the word, especially someone like you who is getting comfort from it, a way to label your straitened circumstances. But I’ve seen people use it who seem to have a couple months buffer and prospects, just because they don’t enjoy their work. And when it gets to that point, it feels appropriative. It really does.

Sarah August 8, 2014 at 8:40 pm

I can’t seem to reply directly to Robin D, but “day to day” desperation is *exactly* what I’m talking about. A couple of months buffer? In my damn dreams! I just get pissy when I’m supposedly not a survival sex worker because a) I’m not homeless, and b) I’m not young.

Robin D August 8, 2014 at 9:31 pm

The couple months buffer thing was someone else, I was just trying to point out how far people take it!


Robin D August 14, 2014 at 7:43 pm

I want to clarify, Sarah… I’m not just trying to pay lip service to your suffering, I absolutely meant that and I know that it is awful, and so hard. Just the expansion in the way people use that phrase grates on me, and feels hurtful too. It just used to have a very specific meaning, within other kinds of sex work in difficult circumstances. I don’t want to be misunderstood as downplaying anyone’s suffering.

Eden Prairie August 7, 2014 at 4:58 pm

Superb piece.


Celine Bisette August 7, 2014 at 7:25 pm

What an incredible piece. Thank you for sharing your story and your perspective.


peechington marie August 7, 2014 at 8:36 pm

thank you so much for sharing xoxo


Cheyenne August 8, 2014 at 12:08 am

Thank you.


Thaddeus Blanchette August 8, 2014 at 5:26 pm

I love the piece, but I think it is very problematic to try to stretch trafficking so that it covers almost all prostitution situations except the mythical Happy Hooker.

Until we understand people doing survival jobs at shitty places they hate as ALSO trafficking, I wonder what this gets us, if anything?

It sems to me a certain parallel can be drawn with homosexuality.

Back in the day, it was well understood by most authorities, medical.and otherwise, that homosexuality was pretty much synonymous with pedophilia. And, certainly, there are many homosexuals who had their first sexual experience as a child at the hands of an older man.

OK. But just think what would have happened if, say, in the 1950s, members of the gay movement started using the language of the enemy and started self-identifying as pedophilia victims. What would have likely happened?

“Trafficking” becomes synonymous with prostitution if , as you claim, it’s basic definition is involuntary participation in the sex trade and “involuntary” is cast so wide as to mean “in a perfect world, I wouldn’t be doing this job”. It ends up holding sex work to a standard that no other form of labor is held to – including the affective/domestic labor that you were doing for your partner and which, if I understand things correctly, was part of the reason why you got into sex work in the first place.

This is the problem with the “trafficking” lable: it is tailor made by abolitionists to exclude prostitutes as anything other than criminals or victims. It throws too wide a series of situations and work into one homogenous category precisely because this makes it MORE DIFFICULT to think clearly about these situations. It is designed to allow police to create as many arrests as possible, no matter whether or not human rights are being violated. And, ultimately, the people who routinely employ this term DO NOT GIVE A FUCK about sex workers as human beings and citizens: only as talking points and convenient emotionally laden symbols for money-raising campaigns.

I think the sex workers rights movement needs to have a very long discussion about abuse and violence, but that has been on-going in the movement for the past forty years here in Brazil. The movement has always been the first people to denounce violence against prostitutes… And they are rarely listened to by the folks now making bank on trafficking.

To me, “trafficking” is simply a term that is unclaimable in any useful way byt he movement at the present time.


Caty Simon August 8, 2014 at 6:19 pm

I don’t think the author is trying to stretch the definition of trafficking–the definition is already ridiculously stretched by anti-trafficking orgs, governments, and NGOs so that it includes underage workers and those who are pressured into working via abusive relationships, etc. What anon is saying is that while these people might not identify that way, the anti-trafficking movement thus identifies them and speaks for them–and they should be speaking for themselves.
There’s another point in here that the movement should make room for those with coercive/abusive AND otherwise negative experiences of sex work. But the author isn’t saying that all negative experiences of sex work fall under trafficking.


Robin D August 8, 2014 at 8:07 pm

The author was clearly coerced by an abusive partner.


Tara August 9, 2014 at 4:53 am

I’ve used that same analogy before, but we didn’t separate homosexuality and pedophilia by pretending there’s no such thing as child molestation. Instead we learned that pedophilia is unrelated to sexual orientation, is a power thing not a sex thing, and is not a characteristic of homosexuality. The same thing is happening here. We’re learning that coercive work happens in any industry, it’s a money and abuse thing, not a sex thing, and is not a characteristic of the sex industry.

My story is similar to the author’s. My dad took me to work in a brothel when I was very young. I loved the women, I didn’t mind the work, I’ve been doing some kind of sex work ever since. If they’re going to speak about us for us, it only makes sense for us to take back our narratives to challenge their framework.


jane whatsername August 9, 2014 at 7:01 am

I feel like its the definition of trafficking that needs to be attacked. Many many sex workers could be considered ‘trafficked’ under various international legal broad ambiguous definitions. The issue for sex workers are about workers rights in my opinion. There are ofcourse issues for women and people of colour and poor people etc etc regarding many other issues including domestic violence, oppression, access etc etc. And ofcourse these issues are intersectional. Like the author says choice or pressured or lack of other choice or need to survive or forced by abusive partner or forced by sex industry bosses doesn’t change the fact that we need workers rights. But… are we as a movement buying into the ridiculous definitions of trafficking? I’m not sure that’s helpful…. i don’t know maybe I need to think more about this piece….


Paris lee August 9, 2014 at 7:24 am

This is amazingly well written and thought out piece. I never considered myself a survivor sex worker until now. I guess I am. No one ever forced me to dance but being homeless when I was 22 when I started did and from then till now I’m still dancing and doing other adult work. I think even in the best situations when we enjoy our work the hazards definitely are high stakes. Being grabbed forced onto a lap licked …we don’t usually consider it sexual assault but it is. With all the perks of sexwork comes a lot of negatives too, more so then most jobs that’s for sure. Thanks for sharing your story Anon.


Rebecca August 9, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Thank you so much for your bravery and clarity.


Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette August 10, 2014 at 5:00 pm

My problem is with the implied split between sex work and other kinds of work. Not so much by the author, but by the whole concept of “survival work”.

Look, ALL work is survival work, ultimately. Unless you are bourgeois, you are forced to do things you would not normally do, in conditions that are less than ideal and often traumatizing.

So why does sex work become special in this regard? Why do we talk of “sex work survivors” and not, say, McDonalds fry cook survivors?

Because – correct me if I am wrong here, sex workers – you could’ve left sex work for a job as a fry cook, right?

And no, an abusive spouse demanding money doesn’t necessarily qualify as “trafficking”. Domestic violence is an issue across the board in human intimate relationshsips. No one considers it “forcing” or “coercion” or “survival” when an abused wife/girlfriend works back-to-back shifts at Walmart at an abuser’s bequest, but put the woman on a pole, dancing naked and all of a sudden the emotionally-fraught language of trafficking and survival becomes de riguer.

Until society in general is able to see these two situations – an abused or dependent woman tricking and one working 60 hours a week at Walmart – as equal, then I think it is a grave mistake to buy into the oppressors ‘ language in anyw Y, shape pr form. “Trafficking” is not now and never was about talking about victims: it is entirely about mobilizing police and respirces to go after communities and populations inderstood as worthy of elimination.

It does not help us in the slightest, in this context, to find our inner trafficking victim.


Caty Simon August 11, 2014 at 1:14 pm

I see your points, but who we/us? Are you a sex worker?


Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette August 13, 2014 at 9:15 am

By “we”, I mean those of us who have a stake in seeing sex workers treated as full citizens and human beings, which is a community that is wider than simply sex workers.

Or one could understand “we” to mean people who are leary of State-induced salvation in general. This would include most sex workers I know, plus many more people.

Or, if we’re really taking “trafficking” as our leit motif and claiming that all dangerous labor conducted under emotional or physical coercion is trafficking, then yes, I have very definitely been trafficked and I mean “we” in that sense.

As for my personal history of sex work, I worked as a stripper for a very short period. Many people who are near and dear to me, kith and kin, are or have been prostitutes, B&D specialists, massagists, strippers, sex therapists and etc.

But as I said above (however “we” is defined), I do not think we should use “trafficking” as a paradigm in any way, shape, or form. The concept was originally DESIGNED to not be friendly to sex workers (which the concept’s employers have tended to define in the widest way possible except for marriage – unless of course, the marriage involves a white woman and a non-white man). It was created in order to purposefully conflate sex work with slavery, which is a confusion that cheapens both concepts and ultimately renders them quite meaningless.

This is a term that, to my mind, CANNOT be reclaimed. Any sex worker who buys into it, no matter what their intentions, is simply going to be paraded in front of the press by prohibitionists who will chant “See? Even sex worker activists admit to being trafficked!”

“Exploited” is even better than “trafficked”, because at least that ties into a general theory of shit labor and emotional and/or social abuse. “Trafficked” is used almost exclusively for only two things:

1) To deny voice and agency to sex workers while police arrest and abuse them.

2) To mobilize politically correct sentiment in favor of anti-immigration campaigns.

I have never seen “trafficking” used – not once – to actually create anything resembling justice.

If you think I am talking out my ass on this one, then enlighten me: where and when has “trafficking” ever been used to get a better deal for sex workers, en masse? I will concede that there are probably a few cases of by-god sex slaves who’ve been – almost inadvertently – rescued by anti-trafficking operations. But by and large, 100 adult non-slave sex-working men and women are arrested and subjected to police abuse for every anti-trafficking poster child rescued. And those legitimate cases could’ve been easily engaged by existing laws, using perfectly valid and useful concepts such as “rape”, “kidnapping”, “slavery”, “child abuse”, “domestic abuse” and so on.

As Operation Coast to Coast shows us every year, even in those cases of legitimate rescue (say 15 year olds pulled from turning tricks on the street), the State often places said victims in situations that are actually more precarious than the ones they are “freed” from (said 15 year olds being returned to abusive foster homes or tossed in adult jail, indefinitely, while the “rescuers” look for a foster care program that will take in kids who’ve sold sex).

No, I remain very, very dubious about anyone’s ability to recover or reclaim “trafficking” for anything useful at all, aside from naked pornophobic repression.


Robin D August 14, 2014 at 9:01 pm

>>> This is a term that, to my mind, CANNOT be reclaimed. Any sex worker who buys into it, no matter what their intentions, is simply going to be paraded in front of the press by prohibitionists who will chant “See? Even sex worker activists admit to being trafficked!”

So, I’m not attached to the term personally vs. coercion/pimping/gross sexual imposition/exploitation/whatever else. But if the prohibitionists did this? It would NOT help their cause in terms of the harmful policies they advocate and in terms of their efforts around ramping up criminalization of the sex trade. The anti-trafficking movement, for one thing, is racking up lots of high-profile defectors (Jes Richardson, Ruth Jacobs, etc.), seemingly because they are coming around to the nuances in their own experiences, that these experiences often included both coercion and voluntary sex work at different times, and to seeing the outright harm that their former compatriots advocate, and disillusionment with the paid shills in their midst. The anti-traffickers have responded by trashing the defectors, but if they got up instead and said, like you say, people who have had these kinds of experiences have diverse views, some are even activists for sex worker rights, it would introduce some nuance to their discourse (slashing through a lot of what makes it so harmful) and to their otherwise extremely nuance-resistant audience. As a result, they want to paint us all as pimps and traffickers (“pimp lobby”), not as survivors.

This looks like what motivated the author to start identifying this way – the fact that the anti’s were painting her into the “happy hooker” stereotype that they find so useful, when by all rights they ought to consider her and address her as a survivor, by their own definition. If they’re going to say, well, anyone who opposes us is some blindly sex-pozzie “happy hooker”-type or dabbler, then we ought to be able to turn around and say, no, this view that you have of us is really, really wrong.

Unfortunately, there is also a tendency in sex worker circles to WANT to play into that “happy hooker” stereotype, to the point where all the unhappy hookers and even severely traumatized hookers *who would otherwise agree* get pushed away and denigrated, as the author also discusses. And that’s really misguided, because it is actually easier for the anti’s to dismiss. And it’s NOT nuanced or often even genuine – and I understand that it hurts to get your traumatic experiences twisted and used for something you don’t believe in. I don’t mind people doing that individually as self-protection, so long as they don’t try to push out or silence people who speak out about their sex-trade-related trauma. But it’s the speaking out that will work against their twisting and using the horror stories to their own end.

Your last two paragraphs (minus final sentence, I mean the two above that) are things that I agree with completely, and I think the author would also agree. But it’s not relevant – or is, in the sense that once you get those harmfully rescued teens and otherwise abused and coerced people and collaterally arrested people speaking up and saying “the anti’s don’t speak for me, and here’s what really happens with the policies they advocate,” then that’s really powerful.

>>>Or, if we’re really taking “trafficking” as our leit motif and claiming that all dangerous labor conducted under emotional or physical coercion is trafficking, then yes, I have very definitely been trafficked and I mean “we” in that sense.

I’m really sorry to hear about that, and I understand that these things also often include sexual violence and horrible physical violence too, and give rise often to lasting trauma. e.g., something we see around here a lot is magazine crews with quotas, people transported from other states, and the women and girls are raped and the men and boys beaten when they can’t make their quotas. Sheep herders on work visas are also subject to really inhumane conditions, exposure to the elements, etc. There is tons of horror out there in the world, no doubt.

It’s interesting though that you’ve gone from lamenting people “find[ing] [their] inner trafficking victim” to doing so yourself. It’s not unwelcome, but certainly inconsistent.

McDonalds fry cooks, though, really are not subject to that. Of course they are underpaid, and subject to labor abuses short of trafficking like wage theft and sexual harassment (which, at least, there is some recourse available for). Some sex workers can leave for fast food, and some can’t (e.g., felons, certain disabilities short of programs that specifically put disabled people in those jobs, and generally pay even less). Even those who do might find themselves needing to do sex work sometimes to get through the month, because they will not be paid a living wage (which is why intermittent sex work is really common among low wage workers).

And a woman being forced to work back-to-back shifts at Walmart is an interesting idea. Certainly abusive people try to extract money, but shifts at Walmart are not dictated by them and Walmart has a predominantly part-time workforce, on purpose, so as not to pay benefits (and pushes people out after a few years). Also, there are abuses that match forcing your partner to have sex with other people, but just making them work long hours in legal employment with bathroom breaks and so on is not that.


Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette August 15, 2014 at 5:18 pm

I think you’re mistaking my position, Robin: I am not trying to find my “inner trafficking victim”. I am pointing out that when “coercion” is stretched to include the normative functioning of capitalist labor relations, then pretty much everyone can claim to be a trafficking victim and, at that point, the term loses all its use.

Taking trafficking as a leit motif is (or should be) pretty obviously what I am against. But if we’re going to include all sorts of structural and emotional coercions that push people into bad jobs, then gee, I am trafficked, too. And so is pretty much every minimum wage worker I know.

The politics of victimhood are a no -politics to me. They don’t speak of rights, but of restitution, and that is something the State is happy to talk about, because restitution os necessarily a privatized process, accessed through the juridical apparatus.

If you’re defining trafficking as the author does, you bet your booties McDonalds fry cooks are subject to it. The author got into sex work because her partner was abusive. I know plenty. Of minimum wage labors who can say the exact same thing. Why does selling sex suddenly make the abuse trafficking but frying potatoes… Well, in that case, we’ll ignore everything, including labor conditions, because it is a straight job?

Actually, according to the Palermo Protocol, none of the experiences brought up here is trafficking. Forcing someone to labor is coercion under that definition. Period. It doesn’t talk about what type of labor is done. And when coercion is mated with recruitment and migration, it becomes trafficking.

We have a case going on right now in RDJ where a Chinese migrant was forced to work in his cousin’s restaraunt. Physical coercion, emotional coercion, forced labor and migration = trafficking. It matters not a wit in this case that the man in question got bathroom breaks.


Robin D August 15, 2014 at 7:14 pm

All right, sure, of course you can be trafficked to work in a restaurant, especially your cousin’s restaurant. Usually, it’s agriculture or ranching or domestic work though, or something like the magazine crews, and generally does include other severe labor abuses like beatings, rapes, and no bathroom breaks. But your partner is not going to be able to traffic you to work at McDonald’s or Walmart, even if they own the franchise – Walmart in particular holds tight reins on it from corporate, and no one, no one gets the hours that they want. I don’t think you’re very familiar with how this works. And I brought up plenty of other labor abuses that can occur, that suck but fall short of trafficking. Far short.


Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette August 17, 2014 at 1:20 pm

It doesn’t matter, under the Palermo Protocol’s definition, if the ultimate place of slave labor is owned by the person who does the transporting and/or recruiting.

Trafficking is understood as a process that involves 1) recruitment under coerscion or false pretenses; 2) migration, and; 3) slavery or conditions close enough to it as to be no nevermind.

The same person doesn’t have to do all steps – or even be involved in all steps – in order for it to be trafficking.

The big, vague concepts in this definition are, of course, “coercion”, “migration” and “slavery”.

Well, the author already has defined “migration” to mean any movement, no matter how small. Apparently, literally getting up from the couch to go to the bedroom is, in this definition, “migration”.

Once “coercion” becomes defined as “I need money, so I have to work” or “my partner needs money and abuses me until I worked”, then pretty much all wage labor under capitalism becomes “coerced”.

The only thing left is “slavery or almost slavery”. I submit to you that if you’re going to stretch definitions as far as they’ll go in the first two instances, you might as well consider forms of wage labor that lock workers in at night and don’t pay enough for them to feed themselves to be close enough to slavery.

My question is why extend the first two concepts to cover everything, but not the last? I suspect it has to do with an unconscious internalizing of sex work as “worse” and wage work as “better”, no matter the conditions.

But that doesn’t match, at all, what sex workers here in Brazil tell me. I am not a sex workers, so if any sex workers posting here disagree, please chime in. And yes, I am aware that there are all sorts of exceptions to the generalization that I am about to make. But here it is: every woman I have interviewed over the last ten years has access to service economy, minimum wage jobs. They LEFT those jobs for sex work because they consider them to be worse, in many ways, than sex work.

When women vote with their feet to leave jobs flipping burgers, cleaning houses and taking care of children for sex work – and CHOOSE not to go back to those jobs, even when we can – then it seems pretty clear to me that there’s some problem with the “sex concentrated” definition of “trafficking” that has been enshrined in U.S. law. Yes, I am very aware of how the Mann Act works. what I am arguing is that we shouldn’t accept that definition as useful for udnerstanding sex work or trafficking.


Robin D August 17, 2014 at 7:18 pm

You missed the point, possibly on purpose, and the point is how low-wage labor works. At least in the U.S. it is all predominantly part-time, on purpose, and no one practically can get the hours they need to get a living wage. It would NOT be possible for a third party to traffic someone to work at Walmart because they don’t set the hours nor the conditions. Someone’s restaurant where they lock people in at night is different. In the U.S., a lot of low wage workers do sex work part time to make it month-to-month, and others absolutely don’t have access to those jobs. But when the people who do can’t make a living wage at it, that’s why they start doing sex work. Often, they don’t quit those jobs in order to do it.

And, you’re not a sex worker, but somehow you don’t realize that you’re talking to someone who has been one.


Robin D August 17, 2014 at 7:19 pm

And NO ONE thinks coercion means “I need money to survive.”


Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette August 26, 2014 at 6:02 am

Robin, Walmart sets the hours and conditions, under the definition of trafficking beig batted around above, an abusive boyfriend who forces a partner to work at Walmart should be considered just as much a traficker as one who forces someone to work elsewhere.

The Palermo Protocol SPECIFICALLY defines trafficking as thhe act of MOVING someone into slave labor, not the act pf hiring them into it.

Here in Brazil, we have plenty of labor brokers who could be qualified as traffickers, but who don’t set hoursa nd wages themselves: they just drive the sheep to market, so to speak.

I am unsure of why you think trafficking is impossible unless the trafficker themselves is setting the wages and hours.

I realize I am talking to someone who has been a sex worker. I also realize that that person probably doesn’t have much experience with coerced labor in the so-called third world, so their experimces with the job-labor market might uave some blind spots.


Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette August 26, 2014 at 6:07 am

And saying that, let me say that I have heard hundreds of Brazilian sex workers classify domestic labor, low wage servicee conomy labor, and sexual/affective/reproductive labor as “slavery” in an economy where minimum wage work earns you 300 USD a month, full time.

So which of these sex worker voices should I give priority to?


Trista August 20, 2014 at 7:43 am

Trafficking has a different legal definition everywhere too. In my country, they are currently changing it so the no international borders need to be crossed. So yes, literally down the street could be considered trafficking.
There are 3 threats: 1. The law swooping in to ”save” ”trafficked” sex workers from their occupation, which they do not want to be ”saved” from, and all resulting interventions (such as deportation). Anti-traffickers only get funding by quoting inflated and often fictional figures on how many people are trafficked for sex. If their definition is broad enough to include every sex worker 18 or under, every sex worker who supports an unemployed partner, etc etc, then the numbers are really high. This is why the definition of trafficking needs to be narrowed and needs to be consistant internationally.
2. the sex work abolitionists swaying things to the point that those laws are created, or held.
3. The third is about sex workers respecting each other and keeping it real, partly because work needs to be done to get or retain workers rights.

By their definition I’m trafficked too, because I worked before I was 18. I am not trafficked, that is absurd.

On ‘survival sex work’, almost all paid work is either for survival or to get wealthy and have excess. I don’t see what the hell access to fry cook jobs has to do with it, but for what it’s worth you can’t be a fry cook during school hours and make enough to pay for your childrens food, clothing, and education. Sex work hours are often flexible and fit around kids, other employment, family committments, etc.

Also, dude, for a non-sex worker you are contradicting everyone else in the extreme.. most likely the majority of us are sex workers,, the author obviously included. We don’t need to be told what words to use and how to identify. Sex workers are sick to death of that shit.


Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette August 26, 2014 at 6:20 am

Go ahead and use the words you want. Far be it from me to tell anyone how to do anything. However, I have my opinion and it is informed by personal experinces and by listening to what a lot of sex workers have to say – most particularly sex workers in economies a lot more desperate than the U.S.’ or Canada’s. It is also informed by watching what the cops in my country actually DO and how that gets sold by NGOs who use trafficking to cover every form of “immorality” that they don’t like.

Pointing that out isn’t taking yours – or anyone’s – rightt o a different opinion away from them. And if you think “trafficking” is somehow recoverable as a term for sex worker rights activities, go for it. Use it and find out what happens. I have a pretty good hypothesis as to what that would be, but I could be wrong, of course.

I, however, will continue to point out why I think it is an unrecoverable term. And if you would like to change my opinion on that, it is quite simple: show one example in the 150 year history of the term where it was actually employed to help sex workers.

If you’d like to dialogue with those workers, go for it! I think the Brazilian sex workers movement needs all the international allies it can get.


Brazen Lee August 21, 2014 at 5:36 pm

Amazing! I used to be one of the “I chose this work and I love it” sex workers who would ignore this type of story, and/or conflate this type of narrative with the “survivor who wants to abolish sex work” narrative, but luckily, sex workers I know, and voices like yours, have taught me better than that.

Thanks for sharing, and for speaking your truth. Like any industry, we’re allowed to hate our jobs and still qualify for protection and rights, and I’m sick of the super privileged happy hooker narrative that now dominates the mainstream.



Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette August 26, 2014 at 6:09 am

Yep. People are definitely allowed to hate sex work. Or any job, for that matter.


Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette August 27, 2014 at 7:35 am

By the way, I would never presume to tell a sex worker how she should work or what she should feel regarding said work. I am currently not a sex worker and have never sold sex, so it is really not my place.

But that is not what we are talking about here, is it?

What we are talking about here is how the word “trafficking” gets used and I have a loooooong experience with that. Lots and lots of practical experience, being on the RdJ state anti-trafficking council and the Brazilian federal anti-trafficking council. I have seen, time and again, how everyone – from cops to feminists to church groups on down – have claimed that ALL sex workers are really trafficked and thatt he “proper” role of sex worker rights groups is to teach you all that fundamental lesson.By the way, I would never presume to tell a sex worker how she should work or what she should feel regarding said work. I am currently not a sex worker and have never sold sex, so it is really not my place.

But that is not what we are talking about here, is it?

What we are talking about here is how the word “trafficking” gets used and I have a loooooong experience with that. Lots and lots of practical experience, being on the RdJ state anti-trafficking councila nd e Brazilian federal anti-trafficking council. I have seen, time and again, how everyone – from cops to feminists to church groups on down – have claimed that ALL sex workers are really trafficked and that the “proper” role of sex worker rights groups is to teach you all that fundamental lesson.

So based on my practical experience with these people and what they actually DO. to sex workers, it scares me to see sex workers who beleieve that trafficking rhetoric can be reclaimed.

That is really the long and short of it. It is my practical experience witht he trafficking issue that leads me to put out the warning I wrote above. That is something entirely different feom tellong sex workers how they should feel.

So based on my practical experience witht hese people and what they actually DO. to sex workers, it scares me to see sex workers who beleoeve that trafficking rhetoric can be reclaimed.

That is really the long and short of it. It is my practical experience witht he trafficking issue that leads me to put out the warning I wrote above. That is something entirely different feom tellong sex workers how they should feel.

But hey, if you think you can adapt prohibitionist rhetoric to your own ends, go for it. At the very least, it will provide one more objective example of what happens to sex worker activists when they adopt the opressor’s rhetoric.

Because once again, and this needs to be stressed, “trafficikg” was created for the sole purpose of abolishing prostitution via the use of armd force.

Good luck with that one.


Sola February 12, 2015 at 9:14 pm

Thank you for this amazingly brave and articulate article on a subject I’ve been very much struggling with – against the desire to “agree” enough to be heard in very short amounts of time (15 minute bursts, generally), I’m recently on record more than once using the false “choice vs. coercion” framework and language. It is a simple and yet complex subject and I think the more we read and talk about this as sex workers and as activists, the more sensitivity for each other, and awareness of the larger frameworks and concerns, and efficiency hopefully even effectiveness in communicating…

Thank you again. I’m not only deeply touched by your writing, you have my mental wheels churning.
With much love,


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