it’s service

Snarky cynicism about people’s absolute lack of vocal and impassioned interest in protecting trafficked agricultural and domestic workers aside (still judging u but trying to be more articulate and constructive here), I understand the impulse to protect vulnerable people from sexual exploitation, but I question the aggressive assumption that abolition of the sex industry is the only or the best or the most efficient way to do that. I think, in fact, abolition will only make it easier to abuse the most vulnerable and make it harder for them to get access to help or better conditions or anything that they need. There are power imbalances in any employment venue, and we all know that even white collar laborers are not exempt from sexual harassment or assault, ditto domestic workers and agricultural workers. The potential for abuse is there in every working relationship and increases exponentially when the workers are under the radar for whatever reason as resources and recourse to help thin out.

So why is the sex industry so much worse?  Like leaving aside the discourse of trafficking for a moment, assuming that sex workers had recourse to the same rights as a white collar worker who had been harassed or assaulted on the job, what is it about being paid for sex or sexualized services that makes it so much more exploitative?

Maybe this appears to be begging the question, because obviously sex workers do not have recourse to the rights and protections of a white collar worker (ahem, nor do maids or tomato pickers) and thus the sex industry, like many not particularly well regulated industries that employ vulnerable or marginalized people, can show many cases of abuse and exploitation.

How exactly does making it all illegal and driving these workers further underground and denying them rights and legal access to enforce those rights, how does that help? Who does that help? Does it solve the economic conditions that lead people into the sex industry?  Does it end the demand for sex on the one end and the need for money on the other, trafficked or not?  Does it do anything but make sex workers, trafficked or non- more invisible and afraid and vulnerable?

Imagine if people were calling out for the abolition of domestic work because it employs so many trafficking victims: abuse is rampant, consider the Ivy League professor who slapped her maid, the French diplomat who never paid his nanny and took her passport, the many people who are paid 40$ a month. What are these people to do now that their employment is illegal?  they still need money, they still have to eat, they still have bills to pay, and most importantly, there’s still a demand for their labor, but no zero regulations on that labor, no oversight on their working conditions, and no place but jail if they get caught, even get caught trying to escape.

I think the idea that the sex industry is inherently exploitative rests on the assumption that sex is something private and interior, integral to personal worth and value, not unrelated to the notion that “dressing slutty [whatever that may look like in context] is degrading yourself!”  and both are inherently gendered notions: men can bare their thighs and chests without anyone commenting on their sluttiness, and men can fuck whomever whenever without their self esteem/worth being questioned.

It’s a job, it’s a service.  Our bodies and souls aren’t copper pennies that lose shine with each person they come into contact with; nannies, waitresses, flight attendants and caregivers are all able to feel and express emotions in their private lives: so are we.


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