On how to be an ally to sex workers

More and more people ask me what action they can take to show solidarity with sex workers and support our quest for basic human rights. These are some practical tips on how to be an awesome ally.

In your personal/private life

  • Treat sex workers the same as you treat other people.
  • Pay for your porn, at least occasionally. Seriously, people.
  • Don’t slutshame, in any way or form. Reject slutshaming by others.
  • Don’t make dead/raped hookerjokes, the kind you wouldn’t make if you knew a sex worker was present.
  • Question your assumptions about sex workers. Stop assuming stereotypes are based on truths.
  • When reading a news article, distinguish between facts and interpretations/opinions. Be critical of bold claims and statistics without resource references – demand evidence!

In your professional life

  • Consider your prejudices: are you, as a professional working person, able to treat sex workers like you treat other people? For some people, the answer might be no. If you’re a doctor or a therapist with a strong negative response to sluttyness, you might not be the best person to have sex worker clients. That’s okay too, just own up to it.
  • Contribute as a Professional Authority Person: consider how you can use your expertise and position of power to amplify the voices of sex workers, or assist sex workers. (Examples I’ve seen: lawyers starting a free legal advice center for sex workers, journalists writing about sex worker rights, academics educating policy makers, policy makers creating policy proposals in cooperation with sex workers, business guys in ethical committees addressing discrimination, teachers debunking myths around sex work to their students, human trafficking experts trying to educate cops on the difference between sex work and trafficking, tv writers and presenters choosing not to slutshame and make dead hookerjokes, etc.)
  • Educate yourself: when you interact with sex workers as a professional and you’re not sure what to do, educate yourself. Search for sensitivy/expert trainings or contact a sex worker-led organisation for advice on best practices for your specific profession.
  • Educate others: call out harmful practices by your colleagues and promote proper education in your work environment when needed. (Examples: cops calling out a partner who claims ‘hookers can’t be raped’, therapists inviting sex workers for a workshop for their colleagues, housing corporations implementing a no-discrimination policy)
  • Advertise as sex workerfriendly (when you actually are): people avoid situations when they expect to experience stigma and discrimination. If you’re very sure you’re not a jerk to sex workers, let people know. Get your name on lists of sex worker-friendly professionals, state it on your website.

In your political life

  • Educate yourself on sex worker rights. Read reports, blogs, statements by sex worker-led organisations. Follow sex worker right activists on social media. Check out Amnesty’s research, or the summaries. The internet is your friend.
  • Donate to people/organisations that do good work.
  • Write letters to your political representatives. Be part of democracy, and all that.
  • Sign meaningful petitions. Petitions can be very useful.
  • Actively involve sex workers in your own communities and movements.

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