🎃 Happy October, Friend! 🎃

Forget the jack-o-lanterns, MSB is here to light up the dark corners of the internet! This month we cover sexual labor and its controversy: should it be legalized? How is it perceived around the world?

We are thrilled to have you accompany us on this month’s journey! Our Instagram page will walk you through new, illuminating posts every day.

Why Sex Work?

Sexual shame can stem from several sources and have several different outcomes. On an individual level, stigma and shame attached to sexuality can create feelings of inadequacy, causing people to recede from exploring their sexual desires and curiosities. With parts of their sexuality left unattended and undiscovered, sex might even become a difficult experience to navigate.

The consequences of sexual shame are even greater when it is a marked element of a bigger system. This stigma and shame are heavily experienced by sex workers all around the world, and it shows in our policies and the ongoing debate about whether or not sex work should be a crime.

At My Sex Bio, we believe that sex work is an activity that, like many others, holds enormous potential to bring healing into the world—sex workers can personify our deepest fantasies or simply offer companionship. Because we believe that sexual healing is a vehicle for peace and that the field of sex work should not be suppressed or oppressive, we’re talking about it.

What is Sex Work?

“Sex work is the provision of sexual services for money or goods.” 
Cheryl Overs, Sex Workers : Part Of The SolutionThe World Health Organization
In Open Society Foundations’ words, sex workers are individuals of all genders who “receive money or goods in exchange for [consensual] sexual services.” Even though these sexual encounters are not considered, legally, an occupation or profession in the vast majority of countries, they’re revenue-producing activities and, for most workers, their only source of income.

‘Sex work’ was first used in the late 80s to appoint value and recognition to sexual labor and in hopes of destigmatizing it. However, “connotations of criminality and immorality” have continued since then, including evolving controversy surrounding the word ‘prostitute’ (more on this below).
Different parties are involved in the sex work industry: clearly, sex workers—who we have already defined—but also: clients and upper management.

According to The World Health Organization, “clients are people who pay with cash or other resources for sexual services either explicitly or within an agreed package that includes other services such as entertainment or domestic service.” In many cases, sex workers and clients are linked through third parties,  who may “arrange meetings and/or provide resources and services” and “influence and power over commercial sex and sex workers.”

Sex work is not easy. Often one either invests in and undertakes it as an entrepreneur for an online market that is already teeming with the sex industry or fears human rights violations, violence, and threats for a job carried out on the streets.

In sum: sex work can be something one chooses, something that one is pushed towards or something one longs for.

Sex Work vs. Prostitution

Words matter. Throughout history and even today, social stigma is attached to sex workers. The sex work community advocates for the word ‘prostitute’ to be discontinued because, not only is it demeaning, but it “contributes to their exclusion from health, legal, and social services.”
It’s a word burdened with considerable historical and cultural baggage.” Furthermore, “the term ‘prostitute’ does not simply mean a person who sells [their] sexual labour, but brings with it layers of ‘knowledge’ about worth, drug status, childhood, integrity, personal hygiene and sexual health,” says Research Fellow at the Living with Disability Research Centre Lizzie Smith.

Who’s to blame? Hard to say. But how can we migrate from ‘prostitute’ to ‘sex worker’ when The Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam Webster, just to mention a couple of sources, continue to include the term? How do we mitigate the power of language whose earliest use dates back to the 1530s?

A way we can support sex workers is by educating ourselves on the industry. Knowing that certain terminology might be seen as offensive and denigrating of a person’s value is our responsibility. Why not embrace language that comforts, empowers and allows for income?

“‘Prostitute’... it never fully shakes off the associations with dishonour and is as likely to be used as an insult as a professional descriptor.”
Dr. Kate Lister, Sex workers or prostitutes? Why words matter

Types of Sex Work

From ‘call girls’ and escorts to ‘street-walkers,’ part-timers, geishas and even ‘beachboys,’ sex work comes in all shapes. C Harcourt & B Donovan classify it into two main types: direct and indirect. This classification is made according to location, how clients are found, and types of sex available.

🔸Window or doorway
🔸Club, pub, bar, karaoke bar,
    dance hall
🔸CB radio

🔸Lap dancing
🔸Bondage and discipline
🔸Massage parlor
🔸Beer girls
🔸Individual arrangements
🔸Survival sex
One important point to note is that male sex workers “have been around and selling sex as long as women have.” And, as of today, sex work is a form of labor practiced by people of ALL genders—in fact, some think that “anyone selling their own erotic labor is in fact a sex worker.”

Sex work can be found at barbershops, saunas and mining camps, on trains and ships—to service the crew or passengers—and even on the radio, via sexting and camming.

Some types of sex work will allow for safer environments, while others might imply increased risks. For example, some “Sex workers choose camming as their platform because of the safety of performing alone and in their own homes.”
Did you know? There is a type of therapy “designed to build client self-awareness and skills in the areas of physical and emotional intimacy” that includes having some types of intimacy with a ‘surrogate partner.’ If this is a new concept for you or want to engage with it, check out our blog to learn more.

Sex Work: A Choice?

Every possible reason is accompanied by a story, an individual, dreams and a desire within.
Why sex work? The urge of earning a livelihood emerges as we grow older and long for independence. For some, sex work is their path to achieving autonomy and sovereignty.
In other cases, sex work may be seen as a feasible path to pay off debts because, as mentioned by the Open Society Foundations, “many sex workers struggle with poverty and destitution and have few other options for work.” Some would even argue that “sex work offers better pay and flexible working conditions than other jobs,” so there are many individuals who willingly embark upon the trade.

But not everyone is disposed. According to The Crown Prosecution Service, people of all genders, including children, may be vulnerable given their immigration status and/or lack of economic or social resources, and thereby led or coerced into sexual exploitation. Violence may be a determinant factor that pushes many into the sex industry. Many presumed sex workers are forced by their family members or partner(s) into sexual activities and kept from escaping sex work. Other individuals may have a dependency on drugs and utilize sex work to satisfy this addiction.
Even still, not everyone goes into sex work because of the reasons mentioned above. We can pull up a bucket of reasons as to “why”—including that sex work is seen as an expression of art: a freedom in sensuality, a way to find oneself; to cope and explore one’s sexuality.
What is it like to be a sex worker and what do sex workers think about it? If you’d like to find out, read our blog!
Did you know? According to the International Labor Organization: In 2016, an estimated 3.8 million adults and 1 million children were victims of sexual exploitation—women and girls being the vast majority. Decriminalizing sex work can be a way to prevent these situations from taking place. Find out more here.

Show Some Love

“Care and treatment that integrates effective prevention activities and protects HIV positive sex workers from discrimination has an important role in reducing the epidemic in the longer term and for future generations.”
Cheryl Overs, Sex Workers : Part Of The Solution
Sex workers need our support! But, where to begin? We can start by using language that embraces sex work, which includes avoiding the word ‘prostitute’—many sex workers consider this perpetuates the stigma towards them. Let’s instead educate ourselves: visit online resources, interact with sex workers, ask them about their stories and find out how they’d prefer to be supported. 

Pay for your porn! According to VICE: “Pornhub and other third-party sites take a percentage of what the performers make and make money from ads. Even if you're watching ‘for free,’ they're still making a profit that [sex workers] aren’t.”

Check out sex worker support sites near you! Here are some around the globe: 
🎯 Lysistrata: online sex worker mutual care collective
🎯 Red Canary Song: advocate group for Asian and migrant sex workers in New York City
🎯 SWOP Behind Bars: nonprofit providing community support for incarcerated sex workers
🎯 Green Light Project: Seattle-based harm reduction outreach group for street-based sex workers
🎯 Coyote RI: Rhode Island-based sex worker advocacy grassroots organization
“Sex worker organizations oppose exploitation, and many argue that the most effective way to address exploitation, including human trafficking, is to strengthen workers’ rights and address economic injustices.”
Open Society Foundations, Understanding Sex Work in an Open Society
You can also oppose legislation like FOSTA-SESTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act - Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act), which hurts sex workers’ livelihoods and potentials for a dignified job.

VICE adds: “Police violence is a huge problem for sex workers, especially Black, Indigenous, East Asian, and trans people. Never call the police on someone you suspect is a sex worker, even to ‘help’ them. Ask them how you can help instead.”

Carnal Theory

“Intentional expression is powerful and desirable.”
Caritia; Berlin-based BDSM practitioner and co-owner of Karada House and Oh Yes Please!
If you’d like to learn more about sex work as an intentional choice, don’t miss our Carnal Theory episode with Caritia, wherein we discuss how sex work can be a very intimate form of intentional expression; an opportunity to hold space for consenting adults to explore their sexual selves without the worries of mainstream purity culture’s expectations of them! Click here to listen or here to watch her episode.

Sex Talks with Diana

Watch our interview with Rachel Music, writer, founder of Schadenfrau Studio and former sex worker. We unpack her story as a sex worker and advocate for sex workers’ rights, her ideas surrounding sex work and what the world would be like if “sex centers” existed! 

Sex Talks with Diana is a space to tap into people’s experiential (and sometimes academic) knowledge. It’s a place to get to the fascinating core of each of our guests’ universes. 

Writing Prompts:

Talking about sex work is a great opportunity to explore our attitudes towards sexual freedom and desires. The best way to build the life we’d absolutely love to wake up to every day is by reflecting on it; reflecting on what we do vs. what we think vs. what we feel vs. what we want. We invite you to ask yourself today:

📝 Have I felt shame about the number of partners I’ve been with?
📝 If so, what does that shame look like? What do I tell myself? 
📝 Would I tell that to others? 
📝 How might this compare with the shame faced by sex workers?
📝 What do I consider my sexual needs to be? 
📝 Are my sexual needs being as valued as my partners’?
📝 If not, what could the reasons for this be?
📝 Am I receiving the same respect I give when communicating my needs? What are examples of this?

These voluntary monthly prompts invite you to explore your sexual biography.
Tips on exploring: Set aside 20 minutes with your phone on silent and relax in a comfortable space with a pen and paper. Go slow. Start with what comes to mind from your first read of the prompt. Continue writing from your stream of consciousness. 

Mantra of the month

 I will not allow stigma or prejudice to stop my sensual flow.     

Researching our sexual biographies:

Have you ever sold sexual or erotic services?
Yes      No
Each month we ask a question in support of our leading mission at My Sex Bio. As we grow we plan to help fund and supply research for sex education. The results of these questions may be shared on social media as well as the following month’s newsletter. These results will also help curate relevant content for our readers, like you, moving forward. Responses are voluntary and anonymous.

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