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Violence Against Sex Workers

December 29, 2021

The facts about violence against sex workers are harrowing. Amanda Ong writes, “LGBTQIA youth, especially Black and Latina trans women, are more likely both to become houseless and to become sex workers. Sex workers experience sexual violence at much higher rates. Sex workers are often arrested simply for reporting violence. The average street-sex worker is physically attacked once a month. The death rate for sex work is one of the highest of any profession.”

Undoing this complex web of violence is no small feat. As Laura LeMoon contends, violence in sex work “exists because of racism. It exists because of poverty. It exists because of capitalism. It exists because of sexism, and transphobia and whorephobia.” In other words, violence against sex workers exists because of systems of oppression. So, to end violence against sex workers—to cease its very existence—we need to dismantle these very systems of oppression.

As we build toward that radical change, sex workers and advocates have relentlessly proposed a way to make the work safer: decriminalize it!. Now! And if that in itself seems like a radical, unthinkable thing, LeMoon notes that other work “can be extremely dangerous as well: farming, deep sea fishing, mining, to name a few. We don’t outlaw this work; quite the opposite: We continually push to make it safer and less dangerous.” Decriminalizing sex work will do just that: it will make the profession safer and less dangerous.

Every day, we at the Woodhull Freedom Foundation dedicate ourselves to fully decriminalizing sex work. We know that the fight for our fundamental human right to sexual freedom is a fight for sex worker liberation. It is a fight for a world where sex workers do not experience violence.

photo of a protester

Photo of a person wearing a surgical face mask with blond hair wearing a white shirt with a sign that reads "Sex work is work. My body is my business." (Erik McGregor/Getty Images)

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