Tag Archives: UK

Sex trafficking is labour trafficking – and that’s what we should call it

Sex trafficking is just one form of labour trafficking. The phrase “sex trafficking” is as redundant as saying “cleaning trafficking”, “personal assistant trafficking” or “farm trafficking” to describe the trafficking of cleaners, servants and farm workers. We don’t call the ancestors of many African Americans “victims of fieldwork trafficking”, do we? The issue of people being trafficked into sex work should be handled in the same way as the issue of people trafficked into any other kind of work. The sex industry isn’t magically different from any other industry; all work requires the use of the body in the same way, whether it’s hitting keys with your fingertips, thrusting your elbow into a shit-filled pipe, gyrating your body (ballet dancer to lapdancer) or touching someone else’s naked body (doctor, sexworker, actor, masseuse).

But they aren’t being treated the same way. Millions of pounds and dollars are poured down the drain in pursuit of traffickers that don’t exist while labour trafficking by comparison is virtually ignored by governments, and police – even though millions more people are victims of labour trafficking than sex trafficking. (See The Sex Myth, which I promised myself I wouldn’t promote again, but it’s the most accessible source for someone who’s just looking to get a bit more info and doesn’t want to end up waist deep in academic articles and politics. You could also try the list of references/further reading below).

The problem with designating sex trafficking as different from labour trafficking is that it creates a very fictional and arbitrary distinction. There is no logic to this distinction. It creates more othering and stigma of sexwork and the sex industry. When the issue of sex trafficking is hijacked by radical feminists or moralists trying to criminalize sexwork under the guise of feminism, the distinction can be used to brand all sexworkers as “trafficked” and create a stereotype of the underage, female trafficked victim and the coerced, unhappy female sexworker. Boys and men are often ignored as if they simply don’t exist or are unworthy of the recognition or protection given to their sisters. And female sexwokers are branded as little different from trafficked women – often leading to laws and policies which criminalize sexwork or sex purchase in the name of feminism and lead to increased trafficking and violence against sexworkers. Male sexworkers and female sex buyers are usually ignored and forgotten during these struggles over criminalization. Sexworkers’ voices are also usually ignored by politicians, NGOs and the general public.

We are clearly unable, as a society, to be trusted to think about anything to do with sex in a calm, mature way. From jailing people for consensual BDSM (the UK Spanner case in the 1990s) to all the 2012 political disasters regarding abortion, abstinence, contraception and rape in both the UK and USA, we clearly seem conditioned to treat anything remotely sex-related (or related to women’s bodies) very differently from issues which do not immediately appear to be sex-related (or women’s body-related). The above issues are of course as much related to men’s bodies – and many other things such as health, culture and the economy for a start- but we perceive them as relating to slutty, slutty women. It’s the same with sex trafficking – control of women’s bodies permeates the whole criminalization agenda.

So, I think we should stop using the phrase “sex trafficking”. We should include sex trafficking in labour trafficking. If we do this:

1) The multimillionaire right-wing Christians in America might stop giving so much funding to dubious organisations in the UK and Ireland which campaign for criminalization on the basis of lies, and by denying real sexworkers’ lived experiences. A major player is the Ruhama Agency which ran Ireland’s Magdalene laundries where unmarried mothers were tortured until 1998. Now that their whole abusing girls thing has collapsed, their interest in ‘fallen women’ is now turned on sexworkers. They, who abused vulnerable, stigmatised young women now want to criminalze sexwork to ‘protect’ sexworkers from their clients and escort agencies. And of course it was conservative attitudes that landed the girls in the laundries in the first place, instead of their unmarried motherhood being accepted by their families.

2) Politicians will not be able to co-opt feminism to trick people into supporting criminalization, because we don’t have a labour trafficking stereotype of the young female.

3)Without the word “sex” in it, governments might actually be able to think more calmly and clearly about the issue and not waste our money hunting for victims and criminals who don’t exist (and arresting or deporting innocent sexworkers in the process.)

4) The sex industry will not be singled out and ‘othered’ and sexworkers will not be stigmatised as ‘the other’ or stereotyped  as sad, helpless  victims with no agency. Sex purchasers won’t be stigmatised as rapists. Rape will not be confused with consensual sex (which is an insult to actual rape victims, rape survivors and trafficked people).

5) We won’t have ridiculous laws which define all migrant sexworkers as “trafficked”, because defining all migrant labourers as trafficked would be seen as stupid. (See how smart we are when the ‘S’ word isn’t there?)

In conclusion, I think we should entirely abandon the phrase “sex trafficking” in favour of “labour trafficking” and/or “human trafficking”. After all, every other industry doesn’t get a trafficking term for itself; why is the sex industry so special?

References/further reading (Dr Magnanti’s response to the Rhoda Grant consultation( the attempt to criminalise sexwork in Scotland). Similar to the last two chapters of her book The Sex Myth, so it’s a good option if you don’t want to buy the book.  Feminist blog (sexwork category) (You can just Google the Magdalen laundries, but here Dr Brooke Magnanti does that for you, in a sexwork/rescue industry context.)

Obviously I could put more sources, but if you’re approaching the issue with no prior knowledge, Brooke’s stuff tends to be the most clear, and I think these dources are the most relevant to the content of this particular post.

Twitter: Don’t feel like reading? Great people to follow on Twitter are: Gaye Dalton, Sarah Woolley, Carol Fenton, Feckn Voters, Maggie McNeill, SexworkIE, Red Umbrella Fund, PastaChips, Laura Agustin, GlasgaeLauraLee, Banjaxed Brehon, Rene Ross, ElrondMiddleEngland, Dave Lohan, Darby Hickey, Madam Becky Adams, Nine, Petite Jasmine, Wendy Lyon, Slutocracy, Thomas Larson and Sex Workers.

Please note that for some of the people I’ve mentioned, I’ve only seen a few of their tweets. I don’t necessarily agree with these people’s views, I’m just mentioning them because they tweet stuff that is relevant to this particular blog post. Also, nearly all of these people have blogs which you can click to from their Twitter profile. I’ve made these suggestions because it seems to me to be a better idea than just listing lots of academic material that is boring reading and that you might have to pay to access. If you would like to see academic material, you can check out my response to the Rhoda Grant’s consultation:


Posted by on January 6, 2013 in Sex work


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Selling virginity: 25 tips

Thinking/fantasising/wondering about selling your virginity? This is the world’s only online guide to selling your virginity. I’m in the process of selling mine. I hope this helps.

First off, I have to say that these won’t be comprehensive tips. This is because the number of known sellers is so low and only Alina Percea ever described her experience; it was a brief description in an interview, so not much can be inferred from it except that she enjoyed it. Her case is also unusual because afterwards they arranged to see each other again without payment; so your experience might not be as fun as hers. Secondly, all the sellers were young students in western/industrialized countries, most did it to fund their education. Their age range was 18-22. This means that the sample is very biased – for tips, we can only look at young, educated western women who didn’t have much money. Although I’m doing it for fantasy fulfillment, I had just turned 22 and was a student in the UK when I made the deal with him, which means I’m in the same category as everyone else who sold their virginity. Thirdly, my buyer Roland and I haven’t yet had vaginal sex, so perhaps it’s too soon for me to offer any meaningful insights of my own; furthermore my experience is unusual because it is dragged out over 4 times – I meet him 4 times and on the 4th time we have sex, then 4 times after that for £8,000. These tips aren’t just for women; it’s perfectly fine for men to sell their virginity too. Or transitioning people or androgynous people.

1. Try to do it by auction, instead of selling it to just anyone. This way, you’ll get more money – yay!  😀 (This is the most common method. It may attract media attention, but not a lot of attention, and the media did not ‘out’ the real identities of the other sellers.) See the list of all known people who sold their virginity here:

2. However, if you’re worried about safety or your emotional health or prefer it to be someone you like/not a stranger, sell it to someone you know. This is not good business sense, but if you can get a decent amount out of him and want the money fast, then it might actually be better to do it this way than wait a few weeks for the price to go up to what you want in an auction. This is also an easier and faster way if you can’t be bothered to deal with an auction, or the amount isn’t important to you and you’re not out for the highest amount possible.

3. If you’re doing #2, try to give them a trial-run to see how they measure up in terms of safety etc. Do this by getting them to pay you for a sexual act or sexual voyerism/photography that falls short of sex, and see what they’re like. (I did this).

4. Try to keep it to one night, or failing that, one weekend/a few days. Don’t spread it out over weeks by spreading the days far apart (i.e. don’t do what I’m doing.) It increases the risk of him becoming attached to you and vice versa. I really didn’t want to do it this way, but it’s what my buyer wanted, and to be fair, he did state this before we met to finalise the deal.

5. Go to Google Images and search photos of old fat guys doing porn. This will prepare you.

6. Be prepared that anyone with money to throw at your vagina (or penis) is going to be over forty and therefore look like shit. There are tall, skinny, muscled forty year olds and even fifty year olds, but they’re rare and if you’re out for the highest bidder you can’t expect to strike gold.

7. As a contradiction to #4, if you really want to make sure you get paid, try splitting it into two nights and ask him/her to give you a deposit – or half, or whatever – on the first night. Alternatively, keep it to one night and ask that he pays you a little bit just before you have sex.

8. If you’re under 16/the age of consent in your country, make sure your buyer knows this so s/he won’t get in trouble with the police for something he/she doesn’t know about.

Remember that although in some countries the age of consent is 14, that only applies if the older person is only 2 or 3 years older than you. If they are middle-aged, that’s still a crime – (which actually begs the question of whether it can be called the ‘age of consent’ at all); this is actually the same as UK law where even if one partner is over 16, they won’t be arrested if they’re only a couple of years older.

(This tip probably isn’t applicable if the age of consent is 12 in your country and it is a ‘real’ age of consent and doesn’t only apply if the person is only a couple of years older. However, if you are under 12, it probably isn’t a good idea to do this. I did fantasise about this from the age of 12, but I’m glad I waited till I was older to carry out my fantasy.)

9. Try, if possible, to find someone with similar kinks to yours – it’ll be more fun and make you more relaxed. You could do this by saying that you’re kinky in your auction description or listing your kinks. Selling to someone you know/choosing someone for their kinks might be something you want to consider if the amount isn’t important.

10. Start your auction on Ebay to attract the most attention/bids. Ebay will close your listing eventually, but you can continue on your own site/blog or by email.

11. The obvious one – use a condom/make them get tested. If you don’t have a national health service, you might have to get the morning after pill quite in advance if you are a woman. If you live in certain states in America, your parents may be notified if you get contraception and are under 18; you will need to find ways to work around this or get contraception from a drugstore or a doctor out of state. Or figure out something to tell Mommy and Daddy.

Taking your friends’ pills (the kind that isn’t the morning-after one) may put your health at risk or not protect you properly as there are several different kinds of pill, some of which may be unsuitable for you or only regulate periods and not protect you (there’s a very low chance of this, but I thought I’d better mention it.) So, if you’re going to get pills from friends, get the morning-after pill and not the other one. However really it would be best to be prescribed it by a doctor; you could try going to a doctor who isn’t your family doctor and/or giving fake contact details for your parents.

If you only had abstinence education at school, try reading up on protection online, in your school/college/uni library, etc.

12. Don’t think it’ll be easy. One night stands and NSA (no strings attached) sex sound ‘casual’ and ‘impersonal’ and yes, they most certainly are. BUT you’d still be having sex with some random you WANT, (at that moment) to have sex with (or are too drunk to care). Selling your body means having sex with someone you don’t want.

13. Don’t be put off by your friends’ or “friend”s’ negativity. It’s YOUR body. Don’t listen to people who put you down or call you nasty names. Especially, look out for “friends” who are just jealous of the money you’ll get. Hopefully, the only negativity you’ll get will be from genuinely concerned friends who are there to protect you; that’s a good thing. They will be there for you if anything goes wrong and it will be good to have trusted friends to confide in.

14. If you like writing, start a diary or a blog. It will be a happy memory for you when you’re older and you can relive your experience as you read it. It may also help you emotionally to have a place to vent about doubts, insecurities, negative reactions or irritating/unattractive traits in your buyer.

15. Think about as a place to sell your virginity. It’s a site that pairs up students/graduates with rich men who will give you a monthly allowance of thousands for dating them. Obviously, you’ll have to see the guy more than once, but none of them are available for commitment so it might not be so different from what I’m doing (8 times, maybe more if we want to continue) – unless you advertise your virginity on the site and say you only want a night. It’s possible the site might delete your account if you do this – but that might be enough time to find your buyer!

16. Try to avoid selling or auctioning through an escort agency. Although it appears that girls who sold this way recieved $12,000 to £45,000, don’t be fooled! The media goes for shock value and the price they print is the price the buyer gives to the agency, NOT the amount the seller recieves. Agencies will take up to 50% of your earnings and you will also be taxed; prostitution is usually heavily taxed, and you may have to pay VAT on top of that. Some agencies may even charge you for running the auction for you and other incurred expenses. You could end up worse off if you change your mind during the auction or when you’re with your buyer. You could also end up worse off if the auction doesn’t attract high enough bids.

Furthermore, you will have to negotiate with the agency, so if you’re thinking of taking this route because you don’t want to do an auction yourself, yet don’t want to negotiate with potential buyers, DON’T.

If you sell through an agency, you might not be able to choose who you have sex with; you may have to choose the highest bidder or risk the auction being closed and owing the agency money. You might also not be able to request photos or exchange emails with bidders or with the highest bidder; all communication might have to go through the agency’s site.

Keep in mind that your anonymity or desire for a quick sale (if you need the money fast or find the waiting to be nerve-wracking) are going to take a back seat to the agency’s interviews with the newspapers about advertising a virgin (they are just using your sale to boost client numbers and encourage more escorts to work with them), and the agency’s push for the highest amount possible. This means that the agency may keep the auction going for weeks just for great PR which in turn will attract more/higher bids. So, if waiting around makes you nervous or you want the money within a couple of weeks, an agency is not the best route. “Noelle”‘s auction ran for over two months.

17. If you do decide to sell it through an agency, it will be easy because they will do all the work for you. However, discuss tax, their comission and all the above concerns with them (if they are things that concern you) and VERY CAREFULLY read any contracts they get you to sign. Discuss any “other expenses” “administration expenses” or hidden costs with them; you want to make sure you’re getting the amount you want once they (and possibly tax and VAT) take most of it.

Consider asking a lawyer who specialises in contract law to come along with you and be there when you go to the agency or sign the contract. The lawyer can read the contract for you and/or negotiate with the agency for you. Some lawyers charge just £30 per hour and it’s not like you’ll be using over an hour or two of the lawyer’s time.  If you’re under 18 you may be entitled to Legal Aid so it’ll be free. This option may sound ‘scary’, but paying a lawyer is very, very little compared to what the agency itself will charge you. (If you don’t want to pay a lawyer because you’re worried you won’t get high enough bids to make it worthwhile, you shouldn’t go to an agency in the first place.)

This link will help you avoid the negative consequences of working with an agency:

18. Consider making extra cash by selling your story to the media. To preserve anonymity (if you wish to be anonymous) conduct all interviews via email, instant messaging or a public phone booth. You could get a email address or use Tor or Ghostery to browse the internet to stop journalists hacking your computer. Another good option is to use a computer that isn’t yours, such as your university or school library, an internet cafe or a friend’s laptop.

Tell them to pay you directly into your bank account, or (if anonymity isn’t too important) have them send a cheque to your university’s reception or, if you’re not too worried about being outed, a friend’s address.

Being interviewed face-to-face doesn’t mean they will know your identity, and even if they did know your identity they may not out you. No sellers have been outed so far, although one seller’s identity was known to a tabloid because a reporter posed as a bidder and met her; but the tabloid decided not to reveal her identity. However, some people may not want to risk it. If anonymity is of paramount importance (like if your parents are right-wing ultraconservatives or would honour-kill you) don’t sell your story at all.

19. Forget the myths that you have to be stunningly beautiful or toast-rack skinny to do something like this. Rich guys prefer educational status to beauty, and while Natalie Dylan is very pretty in the professional photos for the brothel auction, she is just okay-looking in normal photos and videos, as is Rosie Reid, and neither of them are supermodel-thin. I’m not trying to insult them, just point out that it’s not a beauty contest. I’m not a tall size 8 with a 22 inch waist and GG breasts, either. (Actually, nobody is – there’s a waist-to-hip ratio for all human beings). I have hyperpigmentation/scars on my calves, frizzy/bushy hair and short eyelashes. Although I like the way I look, I’m well aware that I’m a far cry from the blonde salon-spirals, anorexic stomach and torpedo chest that the corporations tell us we should have; interestingly, while the Hungarian girl who got 200k is a blonde, she doesn’t have really long wavy hair or a Barbie body either. Edit: I’m soooo stupid – people, I forgot to tell you that I actually have trichotillomania, too! Yep. I like plucking from my legs, pubic area, sometimes my arms too. Occassionally I’ll pull from my head. It leaves little dark dots (scars) which fade, and it’s possible that the hyperpigmentation is from constant plucking and not past eczema…anyway, it proves you don’t need flawless skin. I was self-conscious of the blemishes/dark marks which I have a little on my upper back and my sides too (apparently my skin type pigments very easily just from scratching/rubbing, because of my ethnicity and there is no cure according to the doctor who I asked about it). Anyway Roland claims not to notice and have to have them pointed out to him, and he said they were barely noticeable. So, you are not as unattractive as the commercials make you feel.

You also don’t need to be single; Rosie wasn’t.

There’s no such thing as being too old/fat/disabled/tall/short/whatever to sell yourself – think “ampu-porn” “granny porn” “BBW [big beautiful women] porn” and “shemale porn” –  there’s no industry as diverse as the sex industry, and someone somewhere wants your body! You might even get paid more if your body type is difficult to find (certain disabilities or if you’re still in the process of transitioning to your true gender).

20.  While you should think carefully about doing this, remember that you can back out any time you want; nobody can legally be forced to have sex, even if you sign a contract with your buyer or an escort agency. If you do start an auction or even close a deal, it’s not set in stone. Don’t feel too intimidated to even start because you’re worried about how you’ll feel later on – there doesn’t even have to be a later on unless you say so.

21. If you’re unsure about it, try starting an auction as a joke – a la Rosie – or an experiment, and see where it takes you.

22. If you’re still not sure, write down a list of everything you could buy with the money, or everyone you think you would lose your virginity to if you didn’t sell it, e.g. ‘My friend Danny, some random, the guy I’m dating, my future boyfriend…’ You might also want to try writing a list of the pros and cons, or a list of your fears/why you wouldn’t want to do it.

23. As a gay man or lesbian woman, you may feel that you’ve already lost your virginity, which is perfectly valid – it’s wrong that ‘virginity’ refers to penis-vagina penetration. It’s quite a silly distinction, actually. But in this case, it could help you get lots of dosh, so play along! Rosie Reid did, and she got £8,400 so there’s everything to play for. Selling your ‘virginity’ to a heterosexual doesn’t mean you’re accepting that gay sex isn’t ‘real’ sex or that you haven’t ever ‘really’ lost your virginity. It just means you’re great at marketing!

24.  Other sites to advertise on are:,, Craigslist,, and of course, (New Zealand), Ebay, etc. Try Googling prostitution sites, or, (if you’re looking to sell it to a gay or lesbian buyer, sites that specialise in same-sex prostitution and same-sex dating); and appropriate dating sites. Appropriate ones – eHarmony is out.

25. Enjoy yourself! This is your personal experience, unique to you. Enjoy every step from the auction launch/offer to someone you know/visit to the escort agency to the moment after you’ve been paid. This shouldn’t be a stressful, nerve-wracking or harrowing experience. If it is, stop.

And isn’t it more sensible to get money for your virginity instead of giving it to a future ex, a random at a party, or even a friend who may not be your friend in a few years? Selling your virginity means you’re giving it to yourself, and most importantly, you get MONEY!! 😀


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Why decriminalization is best for sex workers and society


This is the classic feminist stance – make all sex work a crime. Radical feminists were pushing for this in the 1970s and some feminists, such as SCASE, continue this fight today.

Illegalization is:

Good because it’d stop commercialisation and target all sex workers, not just streetwalkers as decriminalization currently does. It would target clients as well as sex workers so it’d stop the double standard of criminalizing sex workers and not clients.

No prostitution means women will not be objectified (not sure on this one, though – prostitution and objectification of women may not be linked. And what about men who are prostitutes?)

Bad because the police have to use unethical and questionable methods of entrapment to get prosecutions (e.g. America, where privacy and freedoms have been severely threatened, for example police breaking down doors to catch people having sex). This might actually do more harm than good for sex workers, women and society in general. Art 8 ECHR (right to private and family life) and its case law may preclude using these methods in Britain, because they may fail the two-prong test of being a proportionate response and legitimate in a democratic society.

Bad because illegalization stigmatises and criminalizes the already marginalized sex worker

Bad because prostitution would still exist, though there might be less of it. If sex work is a crime, it means that sex workes will not report rape, other violence, the behaviour of pimps, etc to the police. The policies of brothels (which are now called escort agencies/massage parlours etc, but might change in structure and operation after illegalization) could not be subject to scrutiny. Sex work would be invisible and harder for police to investigate. Sex workers would be more likely to experience rape and less able or willing to go to the authorities for help or escape the sex work criminal underworld,  which would likely be controlled by criminal gangs rather than exist as a cottage industry, as it does now (similar to other illegal things like drugs, guns, etc) . Trafficking would be more rife because of said criminals controlling sex work and less British women willing to do risk punishment by doing sex work. Sex workers charged by the police might lie that they were trafficked to avoid punishment or stop their children being taken away by Social Services. This is happening at this very minute across the pond, where it leads to innocent brothel managers being locked up for sex trafficking. The sex workers who can’t bring themselves to get their colleagues injustly imprisoned get their children taken away. Valuable taxpayer’s money and police time are thrown away tracking down and jailing sex workers and clients. This does not benefit sex workers, clients or society at all. Neither does the existence of a criminal-controlled prostitution underworld.

So, we can see that while illegalization does have its good points, ultimately it endangers sex workers and also our general individual freedom from state/police intervention. It gives nothing of benefit to society and harms society by hurting families, generating crime and trafficking, and wasting police resources that could be better used stopping murder, rape, etc.

Legalisation argument


Stops streetwalking, the most dangerous type of sex work, as workers can work in legal brothels (a la Nevada in America, Australia, Netherlands)

Stops the public nuisance aspect of streetwalking with red light districts/zones/designated sex work areas (Netherlands, zones in some Scottish cities such as by the docks in Leith, Edinburgh)

Safer, cleaner, better environment for sex workers because brothels will be registered with the state and subject to inspections. (I like to use the body modification or tattoo industry analogy here – licensing and inspections enforce safety).

Improves their rights

Health checkups to stop disease

Stops stigmatization/criminalization

It’s a useful social service for shy, disabled or lonely men

Can tax sex workers so the state earns money (ILO supports this as its good for poor countries)

Oldest profession/we must learn to accept it

Response to male needs

Just a job


Some workers prefer streetwalking as they choose their own clients and working hours, or aren’t organised enough to work in brothels, or have HIV and are rejected by brothels

Checkups usually only on sex workers not clients (though not in Australia where the client sticks his thing in the wall and it scans for diseases!)

Diseased or drug addicted women rejected by state brothels

Some people prefer to run illegal brothels so they will still exist

Sex workers who streetwalk or are unregistered/working in illegal brothels are criminalized even more than in the present decriminalized approach in the UK

Workers in illegal brothels or streetwalkers fear to report violence as they would be charged with being a non-registered sex worker (the illegalization problem again)

Sex workers’ rights not always protected

Environments are worse as they cannot choose own clients

Many clients married, not shy or disabled

The oldest profession argument is fatalistic/defeatist (Matthews)

Natural response to male needs argument stops discussion of female needs (McIntosh)

Supports double standard (Jeffreys)

Reinforces patriarchal male dominance (Schoular)

Assumes all laws are bad, ignores the way they protect women from exploitation

Checkups historically only on women and forced, doesn’t protect them from clients

Liberals depict women doing it because they enjoy it or find it empowering however many are coerced into it or forced to do sex work because of poverty (Doezema). The image of the ‘happy hooker’ may be true for educated women such as students (the ‘Belle du Jour’ experience)  – who usually work off the street – but not for working class women especially streetwalkers. Most become sex workers before the age of 18 – are they really magically consenting as soon as they turn 18?

Prostitute identity inseparable from sense of self, unlike other jobs (Phoenix)

Trafficking increases with legalization

Red light zones are bad places for women to live as street harrassment increases a lot and crime tends to thrive once an area is designated.

So, legalization doesn’t protect streetwalkers or workers in illegal brothels and actually victimizes them more, similarly to illegalization. It is also bad for women who aren’t sex workers as they get harassed. Legalization may be good for non-streetwalkers, but it still comes with mixed blessings, such as forced sexual health checkups, mandatory registration of real identity with the state/less privacy and anonymity and being taxed on earnings, which may cause sex workers to increase their prices.

Decriminalisation argument

Decriminalization (the current UK situation) is:

Less hypocritical

Health/control disease by voluntary checkups

Allows welfare provision and exiting strategies as well as allowing freedom to be a sex worker at the same time, thus allowing sex workers to choose their destiny

Avoids stigmatisation by the criminal justice system and social attitudes

Sex work is not harmful/is consensual so law has no right to intervene

Laws protect workers from exploitation, unlike legalization

Sex workers can report violence to police without fear, so they are more safe

Trafficking rates low as British people willing to do sex work as it’s not a crime, they can choose how they work and they don’t have to register their legal name


The relationship may be unequal or coercive, not really consensual

May allow more profits to be made from prostitution/increased commercialization which is bad for sex workers’ rights

Legitimising prostitution only accentuates the double standard/polarised view of gender roles and sex, however not as much as legalizing it would do

Legitimising it increases harassment of women in red light districts and sexual assaults, but again not as much as legalization

So, decriminalization, while not without its problems, is the best for sex workers because it allows them freedom while simultaneously offering exiting help to those who want to leave the industry. Privacy and anonymity are protected and sex workers can choose whether they want to streetwalk, work from home or in a brothel. Although soliciting and kerb-crawling are crimes, this is necessary to stop public nuisance and is not punishable by jail time for either the sex worker or the client. Women are protected from the street harrassment common in legalization, and decriminalization does not support the double standard as much as legalization does.

This doesn’t mean that it all ends here and we can’t make changes within a decriminalization framework.

Roger Matthews argues that we need to move beyond existing approaches to decriminalization and legalization and construct an alternative, radical regulationism. He then outlines some general legislative routes through which this radical regulationism could be realised:

General deterrence – criminalize clients rather than focus on sex worker

Stop commercialization of sex work – allow sex workers to cohabit to a degree, to protect themselves; from dangerous clients or needing the protection of a pimp

Exploitation and corruption: harsher sentencing/longer prison sentence as it is a form of rape; current UK legislation can’t differentiate between friends and parasites or protect women from pimps. However, Matthews doesn’t discuss this or mention evidence, though it is true, it would just have been nice to see some discussion of this.

Disturbance/harassment/nuisance – criminalize and deter clients who are more easily deterred than sex workers (proven by the Home Office report that they are much more easily deterred).

Proof of annoyance should be required for conviction of either,  not just police evidence, treat both client and sex worker equally, respect for  their rights and civil liberties (how, Matthews? If they are not allowed to sell sex, isn’t that already a violation?)

Radical regulationism differs from the Wolfenden approach cos not liberal or focussed on public nuisance or public visibility of prostitution; however, Matthews’ radical regulationism does put a lot of importance on harassment/public nuisance; it is one of its 4 strands. The fact that he doesn’t want to illegalize it is still “liberal” – ie rejects New Right discourse of prostitution as dirty- just he sees commercialization as a bad thing, unlike liberal/libertarian perspectives which are neutral or see it as good, but that’s the only real difference between radical regulationism and the Wolfenden approach/current situation (especially since the 1985 and 2007 acts do criminalize clients).

(This view by an academic is an example of how things could be changed. Doubtless you have your own views. I included this view to show that, even while accepting decriminalization and not pushing for the other two options, real change can still be fought for. Realising the status quo is the best way doesn’t mean we can’t get radical.)

References/stuff you might like to read if you’re interested

R. Matthews (1986) “Beyond Wolfenden? Prostitution, Politics and the Law” in R. Matthews and J. Young (eds) Confronting Crime, London: Sage

R. Matthews (2008) “Prostitution, vulnerability and victimisation” in Prostitution, Politics and Policy, Abingdon: Routledge-Cavendish

The Scottish Executive (2004) Being Outside: A Response to Street Prostitution (about exiting strategies and small red light zones in non-residential areas of cities. Proves that there’s only about 2,000 prostitutes in all of Scotland who streetwalk or work out of flats. However, this isn’t counting call girls and those who work in massage parlours/saunas so is an underestimation.) Available at:

J. Phoenix (2000) “Prostitute Identities: Men, Money and Violence” British Journal of Criminology 40 (1) 37-55

R. Matthews (1993) Kerb-Crawling, Prostitution and Multi-Agency Policing”, Police Research Group Paper 43, London: Home Office

For Scottish Government information on the regulation of prostitution in Scotland (including information on recent legislation) see:

Home Office (2004) Paying the Price: A Consultation Paper on Prostitution, London: Home Office (just Google it)


Posted by on August 5, 2012 in Feminism, Sex work


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