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The Strange Relationship Between Feminism and Sex Work

“The Strange Relationship Between Feminism and Sex Work” by Carol Leigh makes some excellent points about the way the United States, both in society and in the government, views prostitution; however the title of the article is misleading because it only talks about prostitution as the only job under the blanket term “sex work” and the term “sex work” as a descriptor encompasses more than just prostitution. A sex worker doesn’t even have to actually engage in sex to be a sex worker. Porn actors/actresses, phone sex operators, dancers of the burlesque/go-go/stripping variety and even waitresses at strip clubs are all part of the sex industry and should not be excluded from discussions of sex work because it minimizes their part of the debate. The article does include one mention of strip clubs, but moves on from the subject immediately and doesn’t discuss the harassment that workers in strip clubs receive.

For the purpose of this part of my argument I’m going to pretend that the article actually talks about all sex work and not just prostitution. Legislation against the entire industry is something that promotes sexism and misogyny because the legislation would typically affect women in the industry more than men because of the cultural fixation on women’s sexuality and the hyper-regulation of it.

The article does make some excellent points about the treatment of prostitution, like the many groups whose main goal is to criminalize everything about it, even going so far as to criminalize those women forced into the trade due to trafficking. The added criminalization of women forced into trafficking is a big problem since they were not given the choice and are then being punished for it when they should be getting help from things like therapy and medical attention since trafficking can be a very emotionally and mentally damaging thing to go through and the women involved could have been injured in a number of ways. I am aware of the argument that prostitution (like all forms of sex work) should be illegal for morality reasons, but my opinion on that argument is: if you think it’s immoral, don’t do it, and don’t punish those who choose to be part of the sex industry because it’s that persons life and not yours.

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