Reading #5 – Sex Workers Unite

The reading includes a very important definition of sex work on page three: “Sex workers are laborers who earn money to perform sexual services or who provide erotic entertainment to clients individually or collectively.” It also raises an important point about the unequal enforcement of laws targeting sex work – something we’ve seen before in Arresting Dress, where laws about cross-dressing and sex work disproportionately targeted minorities. The link between the focus on respectability then and now in rights’ movements of all shapes and sizes is also an interesting and important link – to use a cliché, the more things change, the more they stay the same. It also includes the important definition of what the sex work industry is, what it entails: “all of those legal and illegal adults businesses that sell sexual products, sexual services, sexual fantasies, and actual sexual contact for profit in the commercial marketplace” (123). Following this definition is an interesting discussion of how the sex work industry has changed from the red-light districts to the internet (123).

I liked this reading. Not only was it interesting on its own merits, but it connects back to Arresting Dress in several places and in several ways. It includes some important definitions that need to be made explicit when talking about sex work, and overall makes good points, especially when talking to sex workers about sex work, something most people don’t want to do. It’s mentioned when talking about the feminist movement – people decide what is best for sex workers without actually asking them, and that really needs to change. I think the goal to be respected rather than legal is interesting (19). The law is so often reactive rather than proactive that while this goal may seem silly, if sex work becomes less stigmatized to the general populace, it will eventually become legal as the law changes to fit the society it serves. The way the law started to regulate the sex work industry around the rise of the internet reminds me of the section of Arresting Dress on problematic bodies and how those were policed off the streets, much like sex workers would be later in history (130).

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