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Top Myths of the Anti-Trafficking/Anti-Sex Work Movement (Part Three)

Myth number 6: All Clients are men

One of the most common myths of the anti-trafficking/anti-sex work movement is that all clients, or “john’s” are men. While a considerable portion of sex workers do identify as womxn, there are sex workers of every possible gender identity and sexual orientation. There are lesbian/Queer womxn who only date womxn in their personal lives, but still see a majority cishet male clientele; there are nonbinary sex workers who see men, womxn, and couples; there are male sex workers who see womxn...and on and on. The idea that all clients are men massively benefits the anti-trafficking industrial complex, because then they get to treat womxn like they have no ability to make decisions for themselves. This kind of paternalism is highly prevalent in the anti-trafficking/anti-sex work movement and it needs to stop now.

Myth Number 7: Prostitution is different from other jobs

In a way, sex work generally and prostitution more specifically is different from other jobs, but in a larger sense, it really isn’t that different. Sex work has unique challenges; absolutely. But it’s important to remember that sex work is still work. Whether someone is a fisherman on the Bering sea or a migrant farm worker or just a cashier at McDonalds, all forms of labor under capitalism have varying degrees of inherent risk and danger. For some, maybe that danger is physical and for some maybe mental and for others it’s both. But the bottom line is that we can’t allow the anti-sex work lot to make sex work into a demonic phenomenon unlike anything else.

Myth Number 8: Sex Workers are delusional when they say sex work is empowering

This goes together with the false idea that sex work is inherently exploitative and that all sex workers are cis women while all clients are cis men. Many anti-sex work advocates use these ideologies as means to bulldoze right over sex workers when we say we love our jobs or that we find our work to be empowering. It is another kind of paternalism that reeks of condescension. I have attended countless workshops and coalition roundtables to end sex trafficking and heard so-called “experts” at the table talk about how awful, violent, and exploitative the sex trade is. Not sometimes, but all the time, according to these people, who typically have never been in the sex trade themselves. When I sit there, I often think; wait a minute...I’m a sex worker and that has not been my experience nor has it been the experience of many many people within my community of sex workers and sex trafficking survivors. Essentially then what these experts are doing is attempting to silence any opposing viewpoints and conflate sex work and sex trafficking.

Myth Number 9: Most trafficking is sex trafficking

It may surprise most to learn that sex trafficking is actually one of the least prevalent forms of trafficking, under labor trafficking - which is the most prevalent form of human trafficking, far surpassing numbers of sex trafficking cases internationally. So why does the focus of many nonprofits working to end trafficking seem to be solely on sex trafficking? It’s an important question to ask, and any nonprofit that doesn’t make labor trafficking as much of a priority and a focus as sex trafficking probably has questionable motives for doing that work.

Myth Number 10: BIPOC survivors need to be saved by white people

This is certainly one of the most nauseating of realities one will be faced with upon attending any kind of anti-sex trafficking event, like a conference, workshop, speaking engagement, or coalition or task force meeting. Not only are wealthy, white non-survivors and non-sex workers vastly over represented at these functions but the only time they “allow” a person of color to have a platform is to use them as a prop; usually for eliciting feelings of white saviorhood in the many white attendees, who will hopefully then turn around and donate big money and pat themselves on the back for “saving” a poor, helpless survivor of color. It is condescending, harmful, unethical and just plain wrong. Where are the survivors of color at the heads of tables, organizing the conferences, choosing the speakers, representing million dollar “nonprofits” that work to end sex trafficking? The movement is NOT representative of who is most adversely affected by sex trafficking and at risk of being sex trafficked - marginalized folks; people in poverty, people of color, immigrants and undocumented folks, runaway and homeless youth and Queer youth. This lack of representation in the movement is dangerous and must change.

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