What is a Sex Worker

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What is a sex worker?

A sex worker is a person who works in the sex industry.[1  ] The term is used in reference to all those in all areas of the sex industry including those who provide direct sexual services as well as the staff of such industries. Some sex workers are paid to engage in sexually explicit behavior which involve varying degrees of physical contact with clients (prostitutes, escorts, some but not all professional dominants); pornography models and actors engage in sexually explicit behavior which are filmed or photographed. Phone sex operators have sexually-oriented conversations with clients, and do auditive sexual roleplay. Other sex workers are paid to engage in live sexual performance, such as web cam sex[3] and performers in live sex shows. Some sex workers perform erotic dances and other acts for an audience (striptease, Go-Go dancing, lap dancing, Neo-burlesque, and peep shows). Sexual surrogates often engage in sexual activity as part of therapy with their clients.

Thus, although the term sex worker is sometimes viewed as a synonym or euphemism for prostitute, it is more general. Some people use the term to avoid invoking the stigma associated with the word prostitute.[4]




In the US prostitution is a legal term and is outlawed on a state by state basis.  Prostitution is illegal everywhere in the US except in some counties in Nevada.  When sex workers negotiate for their own labor and their safe working conditions, they can be arrested under the guise of rescuing sex trafficking victims.

Decriminalization of consensual adult prostitution removes all laws and regulations over consensual adult sex workers and their clients.  In New Zealand, they immediately started locking up violent offenders and even caught a few serial killers, and they haven’t had a case of sex trafficking since 2003.  Once prostitution is decriminalized, the sex workers can report crimes to the police, and the police have to investigate. This also stops predators and bad cops from being able to threaten and exploit sex workers.

Decriminalization in Rhode Island + New Zealand

Rhode Island decriminalized indoor prostitution in 1979, and it was not until after they criminalized all prostitution in 2009 that we had our first trafficking case.  Decriminalization meant that the sex workers could work from a hotel, or their apartments, or for agencies and spas.  There were no other regulations that did not apply to other business, and this allowed the majority of the sex workers to be independent workers.  In 2009 the Craigslist killer was caught because after he murdered the girl in Boston he went to RI and robbed an escort, and the escort was able to dial 911 and he was caught quickly.

COYOTE v. Roberts (Rhode Island, 1981)


In 1976 the Rhode Island chapter of COYOTE, a sex workers’ rights activist organization, sued the Rhode Island attorney general regarding the constitutionality of the state’s prostitution laws. COYOTE argued that the statute’s language was overbroad and encroached on the rights of privacy and association by criminalizing forms of noncommercial sex, going beyond what the statute was supposed to address. After trial was over but before the court issued a ruling, the Rhode Island legislature amended the statute to only criminalize street solicitation.

This case became moot when the Rhode Island legislature rewrote the prostitution statutes over which COYOTE had sued because the re-written statutes contained none of the language that the plaintiffs put at issue. Under the new law prostitution itself, i.e. the exchange or promise of sexual favors in return for a fee or other consideration, was not prohibited until the state legislature re-criminalized it almost 30 years later in 2009.

Because the issue was moot, the court then turned to the question of whether COYOTE could be considered a prevailing party and therefore entitled to attorney’s fees – a provision found in most in civil rights statutes – under the catalyst theory of public interest litigation, where an entity voluntarily corrects a legal issue without a court order or decree while judgment is pending to resolve that very issue and the pending case becomes moot. The Rhode Island federal court found that COYOTE could be considered a “prevailing party” under the catalyst theory, even though no proof was presented that the COYOTE lawsuit was what prompted Rhode Island legislators to amend the prostitution statute.

Not all jurisdictions follow the catalyst theory in public-interest litigation. This case is remarkable not only because COYOTE was awarded fees, but because it got fees without a showing of causation – proof that the COYOTE lawsuit was the reason the law was amended. In fact, the court heard the testimony of several legislators, neighborhood organizers, and law enforcement personnel where all of them denied ever hearing of COYOTE or the pending lawsuit.

NO Rhode Island didn’t accidentally decriminalize prostitution

February 2013 Bitch magazine

Coyote Beauty May 13, 2013

Decriminalization in New Zealand

Sex work in New Zealand.  11 years of decriminalization and the sky is still blue


Resource book “Taking the crime out of sex work.  New Zealand sex workers fight to decriminalization.”

Nevada Brothels”

The issues with the Nevada brothel system is 1)  remote locations leave many workers isolated and unable to participate in their everyday lives, as many of them travel from across the nation to work legally. 2)The legal system only legalized the workers to work in specific brothels and they cannot work anywhere else in Nevada leaving them 3) no agency to negotiate for their own labor and work conditions. 4) voluntary testing in the legalized model of Australia has a higher level of sexual health than mandatory testing, additionally mandatory testing of workers but not the customers puts workers at a disadvantage when being solicited for unprotected sex because the ‘goods are clean’.  5) issues around the fining schemes point to lack of proper grievance process for workers, 6) wide spread use of alcohol and drugs creates hostile work conditions and finally 6) sexual relationships between brothel owners and workers creates another layer of hostility in the brothels...  http://therealpornwikileaks.com/dennis-hof-unfiltered-trpwl-interview/

The Nevada brothel workers are made to register with the sheriff’s dept and get a work permit that says “prostitute” on it.  The workers are required to get weekly std testing at their own expense.  The workers have to live on the premises + pay 20 dollars a day in rent  and then they have to give half of their earnings to the brothel and then they have to pay taxes.   Many of the workers do not understand the possible ramifications of registering.  The workers risk losing custody of their children, and they may be discriminated against for housing or by banking institutes,  further employment and they go on the dept of justice’s special list.   

The DOJ has abused it’s authority and has been threatening banking institutes into closing the accounts of legal porn performers. In San Diego the cops are going into strip clubs and filming the dancers and demanding their social security numbers, rather than just check their ID’s.

In London in 2006, Merseyside Police pledged to treat crimes against sex workers as hate crimes. Their approach to policing prostitution is very different from the rest of the UK as are their results convicting rapists and other violent offenders targeting people in the sex trade. In 2010, their conviction rate for those who raped sex workers was 67%. The national average conviction rate for rape is just 6.5%.  

  Why the Nordic Model harms women (Sweden +European Parliament)

The Nordic model makes it illegal to purchase sex, but does not make it illegal to sell sex.

In a 2009 study, Dr Nic Mai surveyed 100 migrant sex workers and found that only 6% felt they had been “tricked or coerced” into the industry – a far cry from 80%. He went on to say: “The research evidence strongly suggests that current attempts to curb trafficking and exploitation by criminalising clients and closing down commercial sex establishments will not be effective because, as a result, the sex industry will be pushed further underground and people working in it will be further marginalised and vulnerable to exploitation.

“This would discourage both migrants and UK citizens working in the sex industry, as well as clients, from co-operating with the police and sex work support projects in the fight against actual cases of trafficking and exploitation.”

Amnesty International too have recognized that sex workers’ rights are human rights, saying that they “support the nondiscrimination of prostitution on the basis that prohibition creates a criminal market that stigmatizes and alienates sex workers.”

Why the Nordic Model harms women

10 myths about prostitution, trafficking and the Nordic model

Legalization (Germany + Australia + Nevada Brothels)

Legalization requires sex workers to register and the government heavily regulates the sex industry,  

“It was intended to improve working conditions by having brothels meet more hygiene and construction requirements, but I don’t know if that works. At any rate, as a result, fewer brothels received licences which in turn reduced the number of legal work places. Pushing street prostitution to the outskirts has also reduced legal work places. Brothel operators have a lot more power and latitude now and can select from a greater number of women. Competition among the women has increased and for older women, for example, things have become very difficult.” Helga Amesberger, Sociologist

Helga Amesberger (born 1960) is an ethnologist, sociologist and political scientist. She works at the Institute for Conflict Resolution in Vienna. In November 2014, her book “Sex work in Australia.  A political arena between pragmatism, moralisation and resistance” will be released.

“Displacement in the brothel operators much more in power”