the idea that no one would willingly do sex work

A friend of mine (vaguely, really, more a cute boy I flirted with often) is going to the Continent in 6 days. He was asking where he should go, and I recommended Krakow and Amsterdam, places he had listed as places he'd like to check out. I mentioned that Amsterdam is trying to buy up the real estate (with public funds, mind) and shut down the windows so they can have high couture boutiques instead. Because of this, it's best to go there ASAP to check out the windows while they're still around, and because Amsterdam is fun, and beautiful (great for bike riding, incidentally, especially along the canals!)

In response, someone else said "You think women prostituting themselves is beautiful? Awwww!"

I felt angered at this response. As a sex worker myself, I get sick and tired of people acting like I someone don't have agency, or that I didn't choose to do this work. Yeah, ok, if I could get paid to, say, eat cookies and read books, I'd do that instead, sure, who wouldn't? But considering it's sex work or baby care/housecleaning, I'll do sex work hands down. I'd rather do sex work than work retail, too. In fact, I doubt I'll give it up completely even if I become a famous psychologist. And I know women, many women, who feel the same way. I'm tired of being lumped in with trafficked women, many of whom are trafficked to provide very low cost home and child care, or thievery!! I know it sounds better to say "women are trafficked for prostitution! children too! the horror!" and that definitely happens, but it's really unfortunate that those people are so loud and ignore the fact that many many (I even want to say more, from reading "Sex Work", but I'd double check before saying it) women and children are trafficked as cheap/slave labor.

So, anyway, this is my response, and my experience of Amsterdam in a short nutshell-

"As a sex worker myself, and having made friends with quite a few ladies in Amsterdam... yeah, actually, I do. I think Amsterdam's whole approach is, for the most part, awesome.

The advantages of the windows are pretty big. The girls pay rent on the window space- they can therefore operate as independent escorts, instead of depending on pimps, and say yes or no to their customers. They get to see them before they agree, and negotiate before letting them in. They also get to flirt with guys they like and ignore those they don't- for example, when I went with my partner, some women flirted with us as a couple, and others, not interested in that, paid attention to other passers by. They also have nearby support from other girls, if they need it, and because of how the areas are designed, it's easy for the girls to kick out men who are being obnoxious.

Never mind the fact that the girls have the support of the police if something goes wrong! Considering the police tend to be more abusive than johns when it comes to sex workers, I think that's an improvement.

Now, most of the ladies I know there work out of the windows. Many of them are students and either don't want to or don't have enough time to take on a part time job. Safer and legal prostitution is a way for them to make some money in a short period of time. Yeah, they COULD work 8 hours in a coffeeshop per day for 6 euros an hour, but why do that when you make more in a half hour blowjob and have enough time left over to study?

A couple of them work as escorts with a service. They tend to have less agency about who they get to see and for how much, and are often pressured to offer more than they feel comfortable with. It depends if they do incalls or outcalls- incalls tend to be safer than outcalls, since there's some support, but the girls don't always get to choose. The windows offer agency in a realm of work that is really profitable, and, because of the testing services and social services available, it's much much MUCH easier to get out of a situation where you feel unhappy with prostitution.

In places like the States where prostitution is illegal almost everywhere, sex workers have to worry about their johns treating them like crap, the police treating them like hardcore criminals with no rights, and other people outing them and making their lives hell. Health care sucks, so it's hard and sometimes expensive to get tested, and easier to let health fall to the wayside. If you get pregnant, you're shit out of luck.

Here in Britain, where it's legal under certain perimeters (basically, being an independent worker and paying taxes) sex workers have a lot of agency and, because there's less of a social stigma, have an easier time accessing services. Health care over here is guaranteed, so it's easy to get tested regularly and have access to free condoms. If you get pregnant, there's support whatever your choice is around it, even after you have the baby. And in Amsterdam, where it's much more acceptable, there's a walk-in education clinic to teach the customers how to be good, respectful customers. It's not like the States. There are far more choices and far more agency.

Soooo... yeah. I think women being able to do prostitution if they want on their own terms without having to compromise their health and safety is a beautiful thing. I wonder if you've done much research into sex work, or spoken to many sex workers. I'd recommend "Paying For It", "Whores and Other Feminists" and "Sex Work" as some great places to start."

Grrr. Sometimes I really hate the idea of going back to the States. And the woman who said the comment considers herself a socialist and caring about human justice and rights! I ask you.

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