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How To Be an Ally to Sex Workers

This is a safe space for unlearning biases.

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How To Be an Ally to Sex Workers

This is a safe space for unlearning biases.

Between online censorship laws and politicians like former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg encouraging their mistreatment, sex workers face many forms of discrimination and stigma. Sex work is a job, but because of our whorephobic society and outdated laws, those who choose it as an occupation are often treated unfairly by everyone from government officials to their own clients.

The story of Melissa Petro, a former teacher in New York, is an example of why sex workers need support as the world turns its back on them. Petro was outed for her time in sex work as a Craigslist call girl. She opened up about how her former career was “physically demanding, emotionally taxing and spiritually bankrupting,” yet she was called out for glamourizing sex work. The media shamed her publicly, while former Mayor Bloomberg publicly denounced his own government employee and called for her suspension.

Sex workers, especially female sex workers, risk their public perception and safety daily, and the outbreak of COVID-19 only exacerbated the issues they face. Some forms of sex work, such as exotic dancing and sex in exchange for pay, were no longer feasible as they violated social distancing laws. This left a majority of the industry out of work and forced to pivot to online work, which can be unsafe for those who need to be discrete. The pandemic also worsened preexisting issues like food insecurity, income and housing instability, as well as a lack of mental health resources.

Here’s how you can become an ally to sex workers who are underserved.

Subscribe to their online content, and don’t ask for free work.

Online platforms like the once helpful OnlyFans gave sex workers a way to advertise and work during COVID-19 without having to shut down their businesses. So, subscribe to their work whenever you can, and avoid asking for free content as this is their livelihood. Instead, pay attention to sales on national holidays and even on their birthdays, as sex workers usually have special sales during these times.

Watch your internalized whorephobia.

Practicing sex positivity and encouraging your peers to do so helps create a safe space for sex workers who usually have to hide their line of work for safety reasons. Also, being whorephobic or judging sex workers affects all women by implying that it’s okay to shame women for their sexuality if it isn’t socially acceptable. Disrupt that narrative and start speaking up for everyone’s right to live safely and authentically.

Advocate for decriminalization and remember that sex work is valid work.

Sex workers are working just like any other human does to survive in a capitalist society. The naked hustle is no less valid than any other form of work. By advocating for decriminalization, sex workers will hopefully be able to safely report injustices they experience on the clock, as well as receive health and union-related benefits.

Donate to relief funds and mutual aid funds.

Since sex work isn’t decriminalized, sex workers experience a lot of abuse and unsafe work conditions that they can’t report. This means that they have to suffer in silence and hope they can bail themselves out of situations that an employer would usually provide assistance with. Thankfully, the Global Network of Sex Work Projects has provided a master list of relief funds and organizations to support — globally.

Listen to your peers who are sex workers.

Often, there are people right in your community who could use some assistance. If anyone around you is open about their experiences with sex work, ask them how you can support them. If you’re nervous about leading this discussion, sometimes support can be as simple as buying someone lunch to alleviate workday stress.

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