What can we learn from sex work and why is it important for our society?

Posted by Irina la Fey in Uncategorized

Historically, sex work has existed in different forms of society for a long time and it still does in all parts of the world. Opponents of prostitution dream of a world without sex work instead of looking at the real reality, which is empirical historical evidence that sex work has always existed and is likely to always exist. The only question is whether it takes place safely and legally or illegally and unsafely. A world without prostitution is a utopia and just as one can wish for a world without poverty, without violence and without discrimination, one can of course wish for a world without prostitution. Then, however, one does not start from the real actual state and tries to improve it, but one rejects the reality and wants to declare his ideal image of the world as reality. Many opponents cannot accept that prostitution has always belonged to society and will continue to do so. But only if you first accept the real actual state, you can act on it and achieve improvements. By protecting the rights of sex workers more and reducing the stigma, many negative aspects of sex work would also disappear. Because it is not the sex work that is the cause for the negative aspects working in it. In sex work, these social and gender structures and processes and their negative aspects simply become visible. However, these are not rooted in sex work, but are deeply interwoven in our society and therefore permeate all parts of society.

In this way, structures can operate in sex work that result in the abuse of power, exploitation and violence.  But that is not why sex work is the problem. On the contrary. It makes the effects of structures and processes particularly visible to us. Thus, sex work shows us which structures we as a whole society should break up and overcome. If sex work had a very positive image and sex workers were highly regarded, then customers would be more likely to treat sex workers with respect and esteem based on this image. The image of the whore as a second-class woman both ensures that it justifies violence and disrespect against sex workers, and sex workers can begin to identify with this image, which prevents them from resisting assault. Those who perceive themselves as worthless and ostracized whores who sell their bodies will expect to be treated badly and will not fight back. 

Sex work is also strongly linked to our understanding of sexuality and gender. The argumentation that it would traumatize all women sooner or later is based on the assumption that women cannot have sex without emotions, unlike men. Women need less sex and above all, for them sex always includes emotions. Based on this image, a sex worker must inevitably be traumatized, because she simply does not behave as a “normal” woman should. This understanding of sex work reproduces the woman as helplessly inferior to the man, with little will of her own or the power to make the right decisions; in addition, the sex worker’s approach to sexuality is judged to be incorrect and unhealthy.  The woman is thus almost defined as not quite sane, which is why she cannot make self-determined decisions and must be protected from men and also from her own inability. In this understanding, the man is the superior and thus fundamentally a threat to the woman. The sexuality of the man is conceived differently than that of the woman very drive-driven, which is why the man must also simply live out these drives and in doing so, of course, the needs of the woman are completely indifferent to him. This way of judging sex work only ensures that these role models continue to be reproduced and thus also influences our relationship to sexuality in general. Only when sex work is accepted and develops an image as valuable work, will the role attribution be able to break down.  Positive change is not generated by prohibitions, but by changing gender attributions.

and by changing public perception and evaluation. If society perceives sex work in an appreciative way, this will have a strong influence on the self-perception of sex workers, but also on the behavior of customers. Those who believe sex workers deserve a lot of recognition will not behave disrespectfully. If sex workers are defined as valuable, then the consequence is that the recognition of this value forms the basis for the behavior towards sex workers. At the same time, everyone must even fear social ostracism if they violate the social valuation of sex work and behave disrespectfully. Just as in other highly respected professions where people are automatically treated with more respect, this can also be the case in sex work.