I am always banging on about the decriminalisation of sex work because it’s the one political thing I properly understand. If I hadn’t stumbled into stripping and learned about sex worker rights on the job, I would probably be a typical White feminist Nordic Model supporter. So I take every opportunity to amplify sex worker voices, tell everyone to read Revolting Prostitutes and advocate for full decrim.
I’m writing this in 2022 while the UK is in a full-blown cost of living crisis. People love to create moral panic about the act of buying or selling sex, but that distracts from the moral panic there should be about why so many people have to resort to it.
The overwhelming driver into sex work is emergency income for people who have exhausted all other options. When people are criminalised for selling sex, they are effectively being criminalised for circumstances outside their control: poverty wages, unaffordable housing, extortionate childcare costs, physical or mental health obstacles to work, or violent border control policies that limit access to formal employment. To name just a few.
Sex worker activists have always targeted poverty as the real underlying problem. English Collective of Prostitutes were the first to protest outside the door of Number 10 when Universal Credit cuts came in. Sex workers organised during the pandemic to create mutual aid funds, food vouchers and support for people in urgent financial need.
The sex worker community is enormous, complex and as full of contradictions as any other. The needs of a wealthy, educated White dominatrix in a major city, for example, will not be the same as a non-English speaking migrant street sex worker in a smaller town. But criminalisation ultimately harms everyone, and more privileged sex workers and allies should act in solidarity with the most vulnerable people selling sex to survive.
Decriminalisation isn’t the silver bullet which will solve all sex workers’ problems overnight, but it’s the right model for harm reduction. You can watch Juno Mac’s brilliant TED Talk which explains it all really well here.
I did a podcast interview with The Revolution Begins at Home which has the full backstory of my weird route into stripping and why I vouch for decrim.
In 2020 I organised and hosted an online comedy and pole dancing show to raise emergency funds for sex workers and their families impacted by Covid-19, covered in The Guardian.