On the cusp of New York state lawmakers introducing a bill to decriminalize sex work and make it legal to engage in the consensual sale of sex, I think it is an appropriate time to write about sex work in America.
There are several logical reasons as to why people argue in favor of sex work, yet the narrative is that those arguing in favor of legalization and or the decriminalization of sex work are immature, perverts, immoral, or are condoning sex trafficking.
The evidence actually shows that the legalization and or decriminalization of sex work most likely lowers the rate of sex trafficking. My argument will solely be on the basis of the validity of labor.
Those who typically argue for the validity of all labor are most commonly found in Marxist, socialist, or progressive circles. However, these conclusions can generally be considered reasonable and principled no matter where one lands on the political spectrum. The question now becomes- What is labor and what makes labor valid?
The manner by which we separate work and labor in an economic sense is quite simple, payment. Labor is any service or activity provided in exchange for payment. So by this definition, all labor is work but not all work is labor. So then what makes labor valid, that depends? I personally hold the opinion that any exchange of services for payment between consenting adult individuals is valid. Yet in the eyes of the public at large, it seems that valid labor is any labor that can be practiced legally? Yet, I think this self observed public position on the validity of labor falls flat under scrutiny.
Anyone person with access to a solid internet connection can access hundreds of hours of people having sex on camera for payment. Pornstars participate in productions as actors and actresses but ultimately they are having sex for money. As Family Guy jokes, the only real difference between prostitution and video pornography is that one is being filmed whilst the other is not.
The rules of engagement for sex work are ultimately arbitrary, allowing for some forms of sex work to be legal whilst completely outlawing others. The law allows for pornstars, webcam models, and stripers to go about their work legally throughout the United States or they can work as prostitutes in regulated brothels in certain Nevada counties.
So why shouldn’t someone be allowed to exchange sexual favors for payment, why should one be disallowed from providing a desired service in agreement for payment. If one consents to such an arrangement who are you to stop it from happening, who are you or anyone else for that matter to interfere with two consenting adults?
Certainly, those who take up any form of labor should be properly compensated and protected under the law. Furthermore, people can agree to allow for labor in all sorts of areas such as massage therapy, hip hop production and sports. What is it that inherently makes sex work a less valid service?
Prostitution is sometimes joked about as being the oldest career on Earth. Humans have viewed the sale of sex as a reasonable exchange for years and years and we would be deceiving ourselves to think that we can make it go away.
Sex work is work and should be valid.