For sex workers, other women can be their worst enemies. Witness the efforts of SWERFs (sex worker exclusionary radical feminists) to convince the world that no woman would ever willingly enter sex work, and that we’re all coerced, bullied, or trafficked into SW. This argument pops up on a daily basis. Today on social media I saw the comment by someone arguing against decriminalisation: “no one WANTS to be a sex worker.”
Well, lady, how do you know? Have you spoken to every single sex worker?
She goes on to say “Every time I hear the story of how a woman became involved in the sex trade …[ìt] is always the same. ‘I had money problems’.”
Some choose to be sex workers, some don’t
Now, there is no doubt that some people doing sex work have not made the choice willingly. But we do no sex worker any good by assuming that she has no agency and must be trafficked/desperate/feeding a drug habit. We’re even accused of being mentally ill. But some women love sex and want to monetise it, while others like the flexibility of sex work. And it’s true that you need to be coming from a healthy place to flourish in sex work; check out Lola Davina‘s Thriving in Sex Work. Motivation is probably as varied as the women who willingly engage in sex work, and it’s important to remember that there are many forms of sex work, not just full-service.
But it’s ridiculous to assume that all women are coerced and ignores the many voices that speak up, stating that they enjoy and chose sex work, whenever a SWERF pontificates.
So what’s up with SWERFs?
So let’s unpack what’s happening here. First, SWERF’s like the one above base their assumptions on a self-selected small group. They work with trafficked women or find evidence to support their theory. Thus they ignore any voices who speak to the contrary, or try to undermine them. Secondly, they have an agenda. There is a lot of money in anti-trafficking organisations, not to mention the attention from acting as a defender.
This attitude helps no one. It’s judgmental and puritanical. How can women who call themselves feminists try to undermine other women by denying them the agency to do what they like with their own bodies? Focus on the women who really need help, and leave the rest of us to sell whatever we please, whether it’s webcam shows, femdom, used panties, or full-on sexual services. Our bodies, our lives, our choices.