Sex Workers Want Rights—Not Rescue

This is a guest post by Laura Lee, an Irish escort, writer and campaigner based in Scotland. To read more perspectives on the sex work industry as part of Ravishly's special Conversation series, click here.

To understand sex work, we must first define the term. My definition is simply two consenting adults exchanging sex for cash. This definition is important, because all too often sex work is conflated with trafficking, child sex abuse and rape—and it is these conflations that drive the scrutiny and negative attention we in the industry so often face. In the year 2014, I believe that morality has no place in any discussion on sex work. It has a way, though, of sneaking in—often through the religious orders who are proposing the further criminalization of our trade. To these moralists I say:

“I don’t ask you to like what I do. If you find the exchange of sex for cash abhorrent, okay then. But what I do ask for is to be allowed to do my job in safety and to be treated with dignity and respect.” 

In no other profession I can think of is a woman legally compelled to work alone, often at night, with the general public. In terms of our safety, that’s appalling. Would-be killers actively prey upon sex workers because they perceive us as vulnerable and alone. And we are—thanks to shoddy legislation and “support” services motivated, more than anything, by the seeking of continued funding..

Is sex work enslaving? No, it’s not. Victims of trafficking are of course enslaved as are those who are coerced into the industry. But since the vast majority of us are voluntarily in sex work to pay our bills and feed our children, I don’t think the inclusion of any derivation of the word “slave” is appropriate. 

Is sex work empowering? Well, in my case it’s allowed me to fund my first degree as well as my second, which I’m working on at the moment. It’s also allowed me to keep my household ticking and ensure that my daughter has everything she needs—a luxury that not every mother has in this current recession climate.

But more than that, sex work has taught me a lot about myself. It has taught me that my gift is in helping others to find themselves, which is why I’m seeking my second degree in psychology. In recent years, I’ve branched out in my work to include disabled people, thanks to the very wonderful TLC website

And there is no greater feeling than meeting a disabled person who has never been with a woman and affording them their first orgasm. To bring such happiness and fulfillment into someone’s life is something I treasure. Sex work is work, just like any other. And those of us in the industry deserve support and respect—not to be reviled and stigmatized.

As sex workers we want rights—not rescue.

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