SEX WORKER TERMINOLOGY

There’s a variety of reasons why terms such as prostitutes, hookers and the like are no longer used to refer to sex workers. Primarily it is out of respect for the individuals partaking in the work, and recognising it as real work within itself.

At one point in time, to “prostitute” wasn’t a thing one did; it was something done to you which combined with the taboo surrounding payment for sex and sexual or “promiscuous women”, it has had a lasting legacy on how sex work is viewed by society; and in association there are now a lot of negative connotations associated with the term “prostitute”.

“‘Prostitute’ is not a neutral term and it never has been. It’s a word burdened with considerable historical and cultural baggage.”

Now days, legal sex work is very much a legitimate job that is chosen for a variety of reasons and can take the form of sex, stripping or lap dancing, pornography, phone or internet sex, or any other exchange of sexual services for financial payment.

“‘Prostitute’ is also a woefully inadequate term to describe the complexities of the modern sex industry, which includes cam-girls, phone sex operators, glamour models, and porn stars. Whereas, ‘sex worker’ brings all these professions together and affords them all a sense of choice and professionalism.””

Just like any other service providers, sex workers deserve fair treatment and respect from their customers and society as a whole. Please help educate yourself by reading the reasons below as to why you should use the term “sex worker” over “prostitute” or other any other similar terminology and be mindful of how you refer to sex work in the future.

 

WHY YOU SHOULDN’T SAY “PROSTITUTE” OR “HOOKER”:

  • “Prostitute” implies that someone is hired out like an object for use by a client, not providing a legitimate service, and therefore has less right than other service providers to expect dignified treatment, where in contrast the phrase “sex worker” helps encourage the public to see sex work business as just another type of everyday labour

  • The word prostitute is heavily associated with crime, and in many cases when the word is used in association with a crime, such as when the word “prostitute” rather than the phrase “sex worker” is used to describe a victim, it not only trivialises the crime but endangers everyone in the profession, as it dehumanises sex workers and can even impact how they are seen in the eyes of the law and those making legal decisions

  • When sex workers become faceless stereotypes, the general public are more likely to view them “as fair game” for violence and mistreatment

  • Due to stigma and the derogatory nature in which these terms are often used, they can suggest that sex workers are lower-class citizens

  • Words like hooker, whore and harlot are often used to attack and degrade women’s sexuality

  • Those who oppose the consensual selling and buying of sexual services between adults use the term ‘prostitute’ and ‘prostituted person’ precisely because of the negative associations, and won’t use ‘sex worker’ because it reflects a level of empowerment and autonomy that they deny

  • One of the biggest issues facing sex workers today, and indeed throughout history, is social stigma. We work to change stigma by using language that reflects the humanity of the person rather than reiterating negative stereotypes and connotations

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