The idea of sex work has long been demonized. It is often viewed in society as pitiful, lowly, and the obvious: illegal. Why is this an issue? Well, when you consider adult, consensual, and elective sexual services as illegal, you violate the human rights of autonomy and privacy. Contrary to popular belief, the government should not have authorization of who/how/and on what terms adults choose to have sexual relations.

The issue is not sex work. The issue is the extent to which we mistreat and abuse those who choose sex work as a profession. Decriminalizing sex work is controversial – but why? Because it would make the lives of sex workers better? It makes sex workers safer? Possibly because, as a society, we tend to view sex work as a “lower status” job choice? I have news for you: sex workers are just people who perform a job, just like everyone else, for their own reasons. They are someone’s daughter, someone’s friend, someone you may or may not know – and regardless of their career path, they deserve to be safe and respected.

The criminalization of sex work leaves sex workers vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, not only from clients but law enforcement as well. Sex workers are often overlooked when discussing police brutality. The unfortunate truth is, sex workers are repeatedly targeted by law enforcement. While police brutality is a familiar practice when it comes to sex workers, it is extremely rare that police ever endure consequences. Victims fear arrest if they come forward with their claims due to the criminalization of their work. This allows police to abuse their power and never face any consequences. This further cripples a sex worker’s capacity to report crimes against them, whether that be by law enforcement or clients.

By decriminalizing sex work, we collapse the walls the separate sex workers from non-sex workers. We blur the lines between conventional and non-conventional employment choices. It becomes increasingly difficult for sex workers to be abused, disrespected, and overall unsafe. Not to mention, decriminalization would ensure the act of paying for sex is less stigmatized. Take marijuana use and regulations, for instance. In states where marijuana use is regulated, buying marijuana at a dispensary is no longer viewed as taboo.

Sex workers are real people who deserve respect and legal protection to the same extent as any other person. They should not face abuse or arrest for working or living their life. They should also receive the same benefits as those of a conventional job. While the idea might sound too radical, it is hardly new. Many other countries, such as Germany, Switzerland, Greece, and Austria, already have laws in place that regulate and legalize sex work. So before you write off the idea, before you assume you know everything there is to know about sex work, or before you continue thinking that people who choose to partake in sex work are less than: keep in mind they are someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, even someone’s mother. They are a person trying to make a living. But regardless of profession, they are a person first.

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