Prostitution, Neither Sex nor Work
September 24, 2020

Like the women of Leeds Resisters who are currently undertaking a month long feminist action in Leeds, I am an abolitionist. I want to abolish the sale of women and girls to men and human trafficking. I want to abolish the trade in rape. I want laws and culture to work towards this end and recognise male violence against women. I want male culture to change, to challenge the objectification and dehumanisation of women and girls which enables men to buy them. I want men found kerb crawling and buying women and girls to have their photos put in the local paper, to get a conviction and have it show up on a background check.

When you listen to prostituted women, men are the cause. Not just the punters, pimps and groomers but in these women’s personal histories there is frequently child sexual abuse. Society needs to take this crime seriously, prison sentences need to be handed out which properly reflect the crime. Society must also invest in therapy for these girls and re-building their self-esteem and connection with their bodies. Those who have been sexually abused often disassociate from their bodies, a damaging mind body split, something prostituted women report themselves doing.

I support the Nordic Model, I think those being sold in prostitution are not criminals and should face no sanction but that those selling them and purchasing them should be prosecuted.[1] I want the victims of this trade to hold all the cards so to speak. I want exit services, counselling, rehabilitation, a daily routine to support them, safe accommodation to be made available to the women who want to leave the trade. I want the women who have been sold to have no criminal records for the crimes committed against them, soliciting for example. More broadly, I don’t want women to be put in this situation where their choices are so limited that having their bodies sold becomes an option. We need better job and training opportunities, bursaries for further education, crisis payments for times of need, lower rents and rent caps. We need to spread the message about how to recognise the signs of grooming, love-bombing and the ‘boyfriend model’.[2] These work on adults as well as kids. We need signs of trafficking to be taken seriously by the police.

First, let’s sort our language out. Men – pimps & purchasers – have done a linguistic trick. They claim the sale of women’s bodies is ‘sex work’, when it is neither sex nor work. Of course, some women parrot it, lots of women want men to like them and will sell out their sisters to be the cool girl.

It is not sex. How sad your life must be if you think a stranger pummelling the inside of your body with his penis is sex. Nothing about having your organs rented by a man is sex. No intimacy, no mutual pleasure, no mutual lust, no respect. At best, it might be characterised as an assisted wank, but in reality it is paid rape. We understood that coerced sex is rape, that coercion didn’t have to take the form of a gun to one’s head. If consent is coerced with money then it is not freely given, it is therefore rape. So yet again, not sex.

Prostitution is to sex as force-feeding is to a dinner party. If you invite someone round then feed them food they don’t like, you are not being social you are being controlling.’ All power to the wonderful Leeds Resisters in their action against the ludicrous Leeds prostitution ‘managed zone. (JW)

It is not work. If it was a job like any other why are so many women trafficked into it? Just the other day I was reading about all the women trafficked into teaching. If it was a job like any other then why are the least experienced paid the most? I don’t pay more to be on a pilot’s first flight, or a lawyer’s first case, a hairdresser’s first go at cutting. If it was a job like any other then what are the qualifications/training/skills one needs? Oh, just a female body. [Before the ‘what about the men’, being prostituted mostly happens to women and children, also, I’m a feminist so I focus on females. You are free to focus on men.] If it was a job like any other, where is the sick and holiday pay? Where are the employment rights, where is the risk assessment for a safe working environment? Where are the unions arguing for decent working hours? If it was a job, does that not make rape and sexual harassment by the boss an interview or a workplace assessment? If it was a job like any other why are the trauma rates and PTSD so high for those in the trade?[3] Come off it, I know you don’t believe the twaddle you are spouting.

As with other men’s sexual rights tricks with language, they have broadened the category of ‘sex worker’ as to make it meaningless. A pimp is considered a ‘sex worker’, a receptionist taking bookings is considered a ‘sex worker’, a taxi driver moving trafficked women and girls between rapes is considered a ‘sex worker’. So those ‘sex workers’ you hear in interviews supporting the sale of women aren’t the women being raped and abused by many men every day. Men who profit from the sale of female flesh are going to argue for it to be decriminalised. The pro pimp lobby, the ‘sex work is work’ crowd, say we must listen to ‘sex workers’ but only if they are the right type. They don’t like people listening to women who have exited the trade for example. Listen to these voices. Rebecca Mott has detailed how ‘I don’t know how to be human, that it not some philosophical statement, not said for pity or sympathy – it is said because the sex trade made me into a sub-human, into nothing but consumable goods’.[4] Stella Marr has said she would tell her younger self ‘In the middle of the winter in the middle of the night when that guy in the Doubletree suite invites you to sit while he pours you a seltzer trust your gut and back out of there before the five guys you can’t see who are waiting in the bedroom have a chance to get between you and the door’.[5] Sophie Hayes has described how ‘It’s hard to imagine what it’s like to be totally under someone else’s control. I didn’t even think to question Kas’s authority over me and I believed him completely when he told me, ‘My word is law – you must do as I say.’ All I did think about was trying not to do anything to make him angry’.[6] But what about the so called ‘high-class escort’ who ‘chooses’ this work? Listen to what Megan King has to say about that:

‘My name is Megan King and I am a survivor of prostitution. I was advertised as a “high class escort”, pitched as a middle-class, well-educated young woman choosing this as a ‘career path’ out of my own free will. There seems to be this assumption within the world of prostitution that ‘escorts’ selling online are freely and willingly engaging because they ‘just love sex’ compared with the women who work on the streets who are viewed as exploited and deprived. […] However, I am proof that this comparison is a myth and it is my strongly held belief, that there is little difference between where you sell sex and how much you charge, to the impact on the women involved’.[7]

Exited women blow holes in the myth that prostitution is sex and work. They detail how their minds and souls were destroyed by the sale of rape and repeated male violence.

By Dr E.M

We Object!

[1] ‘What is the Nordic Model?’, Nordic Model Now

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[2] K. Cook, ‘The ‘boyfriend model’ of abuse is not restricted to grooming gangs’, The Conversation (17 August 2017),

[3] M. Kate & G. Jamieson, ‘A soldier and a sex worker walk into a therapist’s office. Who’s more likely to have PTSD?’, The Conversation (27 March 2017),

[4] R. Mott, ‘Despair Hits My Heart’, Voices of Prostitution Survivors, Soul Destruction

[5] S. Marr, ‘An Ex-Hooker’s Letter to Her Younger Self’, Voices of Prostitution Survivors, Soul Destruction

[6] S, Hayes, ‘Excerpt from ‘Trafficked – my story’, Equality Now,

[7] M. King, ‘The high-class escort’, Nordic Model Now,