destigmatising Sex Work

Why we should legalise one of the world's most in-demand and frowned upon professions

By Halimatou Konteh

Sex is one of the most interesting yet stigmatised topics in the world. It’s natural. It quite literally keeps the world running. Still, people shun those who do it or those who are open to talking about it. Society has crafted so many rules surrounding sex, such as when to do it and who to do it with, so one can only imagine how much judgement sex workers face when opening up about their jobs. Whether a prostitute, hooker, or call girl, male and female sex workers choose their professions for a range of causes. Some may not have much of a choice for their occupations, while others join willingly. Either way, sex is a desired need that can bring in a-lot of money for those who choose to capitalise off of it.

Although there can be just as many cons as pros for the occupation, sex workers should not be criminalised and should have more protection surrounding their jobs.

Sex workers earn money in many ways, through client contacts, brothels or walking streets mainly at night. The safest way for sex workers to do their jobs is through private clients, which is also known as escorting, but it can be hard to get in touch with contacts for the average sex worker, due to the fact that prostitution is illegal in a vast majority of the US excluding some counties in Nevada.

According to, selling sex is legal as prostitutes are allowed to file as “independent workers”, meaning that they must obtain a permit for their job and pay taxes like any other. However, owning a place of work for prostitution such as a brothel, where multiple prostitutes work, is not considered illegal. Making prostitution illegal in so many states and countries leads to them being forced to street walk, or find clients in public places, which makes more room for sexual harassment, sexually transmitted diseases and physical abuse. The main argument as to why prostitution should remain illegal is often because of the dangers sex workers are put in from street walking, however, if made legal, sex workers could safely pick and choose their clients and not be forced to work for just anyone. Allowing for brothels to be legal would also be a big step for sex workers to safely pick their clients, and would place them around others who work in their occupation, which brings in a feeling of support. Legalising prostitution would actually eliminate the harm that sex workers are put under because laws could form to help them work safely, such as mandatory STD tests and specific rules as to where they could meet their clients so that they are in more cautious and healthier conditions. As long as the people involved are consenting adults who aren't putting each other in harm, sex workers should be allowed to make money on their own terms, without facing legal consequences.

As mentioned earlier, a majority of sex workers are unfortunately put in the position to work on streets and for strangers that may harm them. No person would willingly desire to put themselves in danger, but some people simply do not have a choice. Arresting sex workers is inhumane, as it could possibly be the only source of income for someone in need or even all they have access to. A majority of sex workers are forced into the profession with no education or no access to basic necessities. In fact, some work for food or shelter as currency. Rather than arresting sex workers who may not have willingly joined the occupation, law enforcement should provide them with materials that can aid them into a better way of living. For example, prostitutes with no access to fundamental items could be taken to shelters. Food, water, and even adult educational classes could be offered to them. Also, sex workers who have dealt with harassment or any form of abuse could be connected with therapists to better their mental health. Rather than arresting struggling sex workers and putting them through more trauma, law enforcement should focus on working to better them. In fact, arresting sex workers who have no other way of living would most likely cause them to go back to prostitution right after they are released. We must find effective solutions, rather than punishments that push people down dark paths.

Society’s critical perception of the topic of sex has played a huge role in making prostitution illegal. When asking someone why they believe prostitution should be a crime, most would answer with “It’s disgusting” or “It’s wrong to sell your body”. This is a frequent argument, yet pornography remains one of the biggest industries in the world. A society that shames men and women who have sexual intercourse with clients actually feeds into corporations who pay and film their workers who do the same thing. It’s hypocritical. If sex workers are arrested and degraded, pornography should be illegal as well on the basis that it has damaging effects on our perception of sex in real life. According to the Reward Foundation, pornography can lead to addiction, self loathing, self isolation, and the sexual objectifying of others. Society should stop having its cake and eating it too by judging prostitutes for selling their bodies while streaming in millions of views daily towards pornography businesses that capitalise off of the exact same thing.

The decriminalisation and protection of sex workers would have a greater effect than just money. It goes beyond business and into the healing of thousands of people who suffer to survive. We should accept those who choose to use their bodies as a way of living. Similarly, rather than punishing and degrading those who are put into compromising positions, we should help and support them, understanding that the resources we may be so lucky to have aren’t available to others. Sex workers deserve respect, and instead of putting them in cells, punishing them for finding a way to live, and tearing many from families that depend on them, we should respect them, so that they too can see the courage and strength that they hold.