A fine editorial on the need to reform laws criminalizing sex work in the U.S.
The word prostitute — or sex worker, as is the preferred term — tends to inspire the image of young women in short skirts standing on a darkened street corner or someone sitting in a window under a red light in Amsterdam. But sex work is actually more nuanced and broader than most understand it to be. While many forms of sex work are legal, like phone sex and nude dancing, prostitution remains illegal in most of the world.
This illegality heightens the danger of a job that deserves to be legalized. Decriminalizing or legalizing sex work broadly across the United States could increase protections for the nearly 2 million sex workers at risk for abuse and lacking access to workers’ rights in the country.
Sex workers would be able to seek health care, have the potential to form labor unions, be able to sue for discrimination and reap other benefits of employment laws while working a legal profession. Sex workers would also face less violence if they were able to report abuse to police. Sweden, which decriminalized sex work for workers but not solicitors in 1999, saw no sex workers murdered by clients between then and 2015.
I never felt more satisfied or optimistic than when I rode the river in my youth.