What do voluntary sex workers such as yourself do to help victims and survivors of sex trafficking?
Obviously there’s not a single universal answer, as “voluntary” sex workers are not a hivemind, nor is there a clear cut binary between voluntary workers and people being trafficked, coerced or exploited (since the legal definitions of trafficking cover all of those words and more).
But, as I’ve said more than a few times before, the interests of coerced people in the sex trades and those who are there by choice (insofar as one makes choices about working in a capitalist society) are not opposing interests – far from it.
What are the things that people who are being trafficked need?
1. The ability to escape their abusers and protect themselves from them.
2. The ability to do so without fear of arrest, whether for selling sex or having other charges or threats of deportation leveraged against them, without fearing or facing police violence.
3. The ability to rent accommodation, care for their children, and support their families without putting the people around them at risk for criminal charges – to be full members of their community, able to participate as much as anyone else, regardless of their sex work status.
4. The ability to seek other work, in or out of the sex trades, without the fear that their past trading sex will haunt them and lose them civilian jobs stretching on indefinitely into the future.
Now, say it with me, class: How do we go about achieving all of those things for people who have been coerced into trading sex?
Decriminalization of the trade of sex means that the people harming sex workers, whether they are violent clients or exploitative bosses or abusive partners, can face consequences for those actions, and more importantly, that their victims can take legal action to protect themselves without being caught in the crossfire as criminals.
Decriminalization of the trade of sex means the end of backdoor criminalization of sex workers – the end of making it a crime to rent or do non-sexual business with us, to provide support services to us, or to be supported by us.
Decriminalization is a vital part of ending the stigma of whorephobia, making sex workers, voluntary or not, less of a target, and making it less likely (and potentially even illegal!) to fire someone from a job just because they have at some point traded sex.
And these reforms are far more important (again, I must sound like a broken record) for people who are not trading sex because they dreamed of being a lady of the night when they were little girls (and other such straw prozzies). Sex workers with privilege can defend themselves – we can avoid violent cops and dangerous clients, we can create a closet for ourselves that protects our families and communities from the consequences of whorephobia, we can make believable resumes that cover up our jobs if and when we try to leave sex work. We need these reforms, but people being trafficked need them an awful lot more desperately. When sex workers advocate for our rights, we are advocating for the rights of everyone who trades sex under any circumstances. Our needs are not competing needs.
So, anonymous, what are you doing to help people trafficked into trading sex?