How To Be An Ally to Sex Workers- Coyote RI
1) Don’t Assume that you know why a person is in the sex industry. Most people make a choice to enter the sex industry because it is the best option for them. Many sex workers only have to work a few hours a week because sex work pays a lot more than the majority of other jobs in the US. Sex work allows sex workers a flexible schedule so they can attend college or pick their kids up at the bus stop after school. Sex work allows sex workers to pay their rent and to put food on the table for their families.
2) Don’t Judge. Know your own prejudices and realize that not everyone shares the same opinions as you. Whether you think sex work is a dangerous and exploitative profession or not is irrelevant compared to the actual experiences of the person who works in the industry. It’s not your place to pass judgment on how another person earns the money they need to survive.
3) Don’t assert that sex workers forfeit their right to complain about abuse by consenting to a job you believe is degrading. Just because a Playboy Bunny knew Hugh Hefner was a bit of a jerk when she accepted her position at the mansion doesn’t mean she doesn’t have the right to speak out about abusive working conditions she encountered there. Sex workers don’t deserve sexual assault; they don’t deserve abusive working conditions, either.
4) Don’t assume sex workers have false consciousness. Just because you can’t imagine wanting to do something, or you can’t imagine doing something without feeling violated, doesn’t mean that’s how a sex worker feels when s/he does it, especially when s/he tells you otherwise. Doing sex work is not a symptom of being out of touch with reality and sex workers aren’t all victims of childhood abuse trying to flee their past or recapture Daddy’s love. Believe a sex worker when they tell you something.
5) Address Your Prejudices. If you have a deep bias or underlying fear that all sex workers are bad people and/or full of diseases, then perhaps these are issues within yourself that you need to address. In fact, the majority of sex workers practice safer sex more than their peers and get tested regularly.
6) Respect that Sex Work is Real Work. There’s a set of professional skills involved and it’s not necessarily an industry that everyone can enter into. Don’t tell someone to get a “real job” when they already have one that suits them just fine.
7) Don’t Play Rescuer. Most sex workers are not trying to get out of the industry or in need of help. Many sex workers have reported that rescue attempts which usually includes them being arrested, traumatizes them and leaves them further displaced. Most rescue efforts do not include offering sex workers any real services like child care, subsidized housing, or jobs that pay a living wage. Sex workers have been rating these experiences at http://ratethatrescue.org/
8) Remember “Our Lives Are Not Your Fundraising Material” Many trafficking and rescue organizations exploit sex workers who have been arrested. They highlight the few rare horrific stories of abuse and exploitation for their fundraising campaigns. They stigmatize sex workers which is known to increase violence towards sex workers. They create hysteria about phantom pimps and traffickers that rarely exist, while they profit off the criminalization of sex workers. Trafficking NGOs are being funded at over 600 million a year just to create awareness about sex trafficking. Yet 80% of human trafficking takes place in other labor sectors.
9) Watch Your Language. Cracking jokes about rape and dead hookers is not acceptable. Calling sex workers derogatory names is not acceptable, However, some sex workers have “taken back” these phrases to show the world that they are proud sex workers who will not be shamed; thus helping to help reduce stigma and change social perception. (whore, ho, hooker)
10 ) Do Your Own Research. Most mainstream media is biased against sex workers and the statistics you read in the news about the sex industry are usually false. Be critical of what you read or hear as most of it won’t be based on evidence-based research. If you want to learn about sex workers, contact your local sex worker rights organization and ask them to provide you or your organization with a free training.
11) Be Discreet and Respect Personal Boundaries. If you know a sex worker, it’s OK to engage in conversation in dialogue with them in private, but respect their privacy surrounding their work in public settings. Don’t ask personal questions such as “does your family know what you do?” If a sex worker is not “out” to their friends, family, or co-workers, it’s not your place to tell everyone what they do.
12) Respect them! Realize that sex work transcends ‘visible’ notions of race, gender, class, sexuality, education, and identities; sex workers are your sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, lovers, and friends.
13) Do check yourself if you find yourself assuming you can have sex with someone just because they are a sex worker. Don’t try to get a freebie, or assume that you are special. You’re not special. If you’re interested in spending more time with a sex worker, hire them. If you’re not comfortable hiring an escort, consider a sugaring relationship. Don’t assume that you’re “above” paying a sex worker, and don’t try to claim that to pay a sex worker would make the relationship inauthentic, in an effort to justify your desire for free services.
14) Be Supportive and Share Resources. If you know of someone who is new to the industry or in an abusive situation with an employer, by all means, offer advice and support without being condescending. Some people do enter into the sex industry without educating themselves about what they are getting into and may need help. Despite the situation, calling the police is usually never a good option. Try to find other sex worker-led organizations that are sensitive to the needs of sex workers.
15) Educate yourself about the plight of sex workers in the U.S. and globally. Active sex workers are about 230 times more likely to die and 110 times more likely to be murdered than the average person. That makes sex work the most dangerous job in America. At the same time, it’s important not to conflate sex trafficking with voluntary sex work. Sex work has problems, but many sex workers can and do lead fulfilling lives and draw immense gratification from their professions. That’s why it’s important to protect their rights.
16) Speak out wherever you encounter whorephobia. Be a good friend to the sex workers in your life. Don’t be afraid to call out other friends, family, or coworkers if they say something, even as a joke, which is degrading to sex workers. Whorephobia kills. As you learn the above things, stand up for sex workers when conversations happen. Don’t let the stigma, bigotry, and shame around sex work continue. Remember it’s important that sex workers be allowed to speak for themselves and for allies to not speak them. If you want to help be an ally to sex workers, please consider donating or volunteering with your local sex worker rights organization.
Sex Workers in need of support may call Coyote’s support line at 401-525-8757