Whether you like it or not, sex work has been and will always continue to be a profession. However, the discourse around sex work is beginning to find its way out of the dark and into the realm of sex positivity. Typically judged for their job, sex workers are now finding allies, and their voices are louder in mainstream media.
In HBO’s The White Lotus, characters such as escorts Lucia and Mia are no longer presented as downtrodden women forced to desperate measures. Instead, they are intelligent and vibrant young women who find power in sex work and joy in life.
Feminism has also evolved to support all women regardless of their life choices. Now allies are recognizing the power and autonomy that draws women to sex work rather than perceiving them as victims of patriarchy.
Despite this increased support for women in the adult industry, it can still be easy to slip into stereotyping. Even though there is a vast market for sex work, with many websites available online such as Slixa alone, society has attached a negative stigma to this profession that is difficult to unlearn.
Therefore, to be an ally to sex workers is to deconstruct these stereotypes and instead educate ourselves on what it truly means to engage in sex work. Our guide on how to be an ally fundamentally relies on listening to these individuals, understanding their perspectives, and challenging our internal assumptions about sex work.
Understanding the Issues Sex Workers Face
As mentioned, the negative stigma around sex work is a prominent issue escorts, and other adult professionals face. It is essential to understand the damaging impact stigma has on the individuals who partake in sex work. Whilst workers see themselves as professionals, social stigma shames them, leading to social isolation.
The Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness discusses the negative impact of ‘whore stigma’, stating:
“This stigma has engendered a misconception of the sex worker as an uneducated and poor individual, leading to a generally socially-acceptable disrespect and discrimination of these individuals.”
This stigma has had damaging consequences, evident in how the criminal justice system treats sex workers. According to Global News, 31% of sex workers do not report violent crimes due to fear of the police. This attitude is unsurprising, especially considering how widespread sexual violence is within the Metropolitan Police in the UK.
Most shocking of all, 45-75% of sex workers globally have experienced violence in the workplace. The figures for trans sex workers are disproportionately higher, encouraged by increased transphobia intertwining with sex work stigma.
Whilst it is important to understand the statistics above, an integral aspect of re-educating yourself is learning about the experiences of sex workers. Online agency Tryst provides a variety of interviews from escorts, perspectives and opinion pieces about the sex industry that make for fascinating and informative literature on the topic.
Additionally, they dismantle the negative stereotypes associated with sex work, interviewing individuals with agencies who fundamentally love what they do. Giving a voice to sex workers and allowing them to re-construct their own image in the media and society is a fundamental way to be an ally.
Do you produce a podcast? Have a cult following on social media? Use your platform and offer sex workers the platform to tell their stories!
Be an Active Ally
Whether you support sex workers through donating to organizations, advocating for decriminalization, or standing up against discrimination, you can be an active ally in multiple ways. Maybe you are having open conversations with people in your everyday circle and helping them unlearn their negative attitude towards sex workers.
Being an active ally also includes the nuances of language and tone you use. Do you have a judgemental or patronizing tone when discussing sex work? Or do you use discriminatory language such as ‘slut’ or ‘whores’? Either way, making a conscious change in these smaller areas and encouraging others to do the same is integral to being a genuine ally.
Only being an Instagram ally and re-sharing stuff for engagement is not helpful. Instead, those messages you share on social media should also translate into your everyday actions. Consistency is a vital aspect of allyship in any community.
Allow for Self Reflection and Growth
The key to being a good ally isn’t about being perfect immediately. Unlearning embedded stereotypes takes time, and you have to be kind to allow yourself to grow. Reflect on previous attitudes and behavior that may have made you a poor ally. Instead of beating yourself up about previous actions, give yourself the opportunity to be better, as people are allowed to change and grow.
Always check in on your own internalized biases and assumptions about sex work and make an effort to deconstruct them. You may take online courses or find a support group to try and unlearn this ingrained stigma against sex workers.
At the end of the day, if you are willing to acknowledge we all have internalized prejudices about sex work and are ready to challenge them, you are taking the proper steps as an effective ally to sex workers.
Being a positive ally to sex workers is a process that takes time and a conscious effort to unlearn society’s negative depiction of them. If you are to take anything away from this guide, it is to listen to and enhance the voices of sex workers. Allow them to be in control of their narrative!
It is a difficult task to change how society views sex work, but the more effective allies there are, the greater the chance of change!