I just read this article, and for the most part understand and agree with the sentiments; though responding to it, which at first I was hesitant to do, there are a few issues that bother me:
In the uphill battle against abolitionists (you know, those anti-trafficking industry folks) and their fight to get rid of sex work, there is a lot of underhanded twisting of words and politicking going on… But I’m not so sure if I agree with some of the points.
First of all, I’ve met many sex workers who put forward the “victim of sex work” story, not because of politicking; rather they were trying to keep themselves safe, from the police, from radical Janice Raymond type feminists, from stigma and discrimination… Unfortunately this plays into the agenda of those who live for the anti sex work crusade, yet I always feel we can’t judge the decisions that individuals make in such circumstances… And the paradox here is that often in arguments about sex work, a choice comes as to whether to question such stories or to respect whatever reason someone has put forward such a story.
The second thing I am not sure about is essentially the “voluntary vs. forced” argument that takes many different shapes. In essence the idea that “work” or “labour” automatically implies consent doesn’t make sense to me; consent is a very strange thing, and in this world is fairly contextual. Now some people might crucify me for saying this, so let me clarify: when it come to choices of labour, the choice of whether to consent to do said labour happens in a socio-economic context that cannot be separated from it. For example, a domestic worker still consents to do the work, but too often due to a lack of better choices.
The entire point of framing sex work as work is to frame it within labour right (and also because, you know, it is work), and that always works for me:
There is a sex industry that is far from perfect, but rather than talk about saving the poor workers we should focus on improving the safety, the access to services, strengthen the voices of sex workers to make demands, hold business owners to account, etc. In essence in many ways it should be dealt with as many other industries. I mean, the farms and agriculture sector in South Africa has huge human rights issues, trafficking, etc. happening, yet we don’t talk about abolishing the agricultural sector; we understand that forced labour (which is something different than slavery by the way) is wrong, and that we need to address it with all stakeholders in that sector.