This section is where you will discuss briefly what the topic is trying to say or ask of us. Why is it important for us to think about in general? For women? And right now in time?
To understand if sex work could be empowering we first must understand what sex work is. So what is sex work? The definition of sex work is when adults receive money or goods in exchange for consensual sexual services according to It's important for us to think about this because of gender roles, the laws, sex trafficking, and our safety.
Sex workers in this case refers to direct vendors in the sex industry. This would include but is not limited to prostitutes, exotic dancers, and pornographic actors/ models. While some definitions include all those employed in the sex industry, such as pimps, brothel managers, pornographic movie directors, etc., for these arguments we will focus on direct vendors. These sex workers experience a spectrum of choice in terms of what is done, and for what compensation. This does not include underage participants or trafficking. (Lampen, July 2018) The arguments in this article, whether sex workers can be empowered or not, is far from simple. The answers to that question is complex and nuanced. A variety of factors can influence the opinions on both sides of the argument including race, gender, sexual orientation, economics, national origin, religion, long held social constructs, and intersections of these. The two arguments presented in the text “Taking Sides” touches on two viewpoints- sex workers being trained to embrace self-empowerment on a variety of levels, as opposed to sex workers not truly being empowered because sex workers outside of the exception is invisible compared to entrenched cultural ideas and ideals. (Pienta, 2013, pg. 84, 93) While a small minority of people in this country are sex workers, how we approach the treatment of sex workers affects society as a whole. How we decide who deserves safety, justice, and rights should be of interest to all women, because all women are impacted by the ideas of others that determine how fully we are protected under the law and how much autonomy we have over our lives. Access to healthcare for sex workers is a public safety issue because transmission of sexually transmitted diseases is increased in this population. (Studies, 2016) Accompanying illicit behavior, such as violence and drug crimes, affects not just the worker, but the community as a whole. For these reasons and more, we should take interest in resolving the challenges the sex industry presents.

This topic discusses whether sex work can be empowering. Sex work is basically when adults have consensual sex in exchange for money or other form of goods. The topic takes a look at both sides of the subject. It also discusses whether sex work can be empowering for both men and women.


Sex Work is controversial in the United States as well as other countries because of the difficulty in knowing and identifying human rights and safety issues in the sex industry. In the United States among other countries overseas, people have begun advocating for sex workers and their rights. There are people that believe people should be able to hold any job position that they please too very strongly. It's their body and they will do with it whatever they want too.
In the book "Taking Sides," it states, "local politics focused on addressing sex work as a social evil subject to criminal prosecution contribute to the victimization of sex industry workers". There are many social issues behind sex work such as, social position, scarcity, and lack of access to education, among many more.

According to a study conducted about the sex industry in the United States, Atlanta's sex trade was found to be worth $290 million in 2007. Miami's was worth $235 million, and Washington D.C.'s was worth $103 million. This industry is thriving in America, but it is the one industry that is not controlled or regulated. The sex trade is not ran by uneducated people, it is ran by people who are struggling to find other opportunities. In fact, 42.5% of the people who run it have their GED's, and 27.5% of them have some college credits.
Between 2005-2011, pimps were averaging $32,833 in cash weekly in Atlanta, $12,025 in Dallas, Texas, $17,741 in Miami, $11,129 in San Diego, $31,200 in Denver, $18,000 in Seattle, $5,000 in Kansas City, and $11,588 in Washington. When struggling to find other work, these number can definitely seem appealing and worth the work for some people.
The Sex economy pulls most of their workers into the business through family and close peers. 31.5% of workers have family members also in the business. 26% have neighborhood context. 24.7% were recruited by women.
24.7% went from drug dealing to pimping. 17.8% had a mentor-ship and the remaining 4.1% had a legality in a foreign country.

In the world of sex workers, the most common stereotype is that you automatically think “she”. An issue especially in society and the media today is that most think that the majority that are sex worker are women. With that mind set, it can cause a negative reaction with some or create more of a sexual stereotype on women today such as, seeing them only as sexual beings and objects. Studies show that “84% of the articles discussed only female sex workers, 10% only male, and 6% both” (Dennis, 2008). This is an unequal view point among society because in truth, “gay men actually comprise 5-10% of the male population, hardly a “negligible proportion” to begin with, but the demand for male sex workers is by no means contained within gay communities” (2008).

A common reason for women to be drawn to the sex industry is because of low self-esteem or believing that working in an industry such as this one is viewed as "cool". Women that do not believe they are seen as being conventionally beautiful can begin to view themselves as worthless, given the pressure presented in today's society to be "perfect". This will lead those women to working in the sex industry, as they will feel beautiful and needed and like they are accepted if they find themselves being wanted by either other men or women. This seems like it would be unhealthy but women have reported feeling empowered by this, as it gives them a new found confidence and sense of control.


Economics plays a role in the need for empowerment by a particular sex worker. Most sex workers, male and female, describe economic need and a lack of resources in choosing sex work. Not to mention the social constraints, while not directly coercive, informs the decision to choose sex work. (Butler, 2015, pg. 95) Sex sells. Sex pays. Many women turn to sex work to pay their bills, support their families, and meet other economic obligations. The commodification of women’s sexuality in media, politics, and culture makes sex work an easy choice when there are limited economic resources, educational opportunities, and a hierarchal culture that places women beneath men.
There is a great deal of intersectionality of race, gender, and sexual orientation that affect the positive and negative outcomes when discussing the empowerment of sex workers. The more successful sex workers, where a middle-class to wealthy income are realized, are overwhelmingly white. Sex workers of color, despite the orientalism that informs the dehumanization that leads to the exploitive nature of sex work worldwide, are out earned by white women in the sex industry. While the prominence of sex-work celebrities can help bring attention to sex-workers’ rights and empowerment by normalizing sex work, it does not necessarily trickle down to the lower rungs of sex work. The level of empowerment is directly tied to the level of sex work you perform. Stormy Daniels, the pornographic actress allegedly involved with president Trump, is represented legally by a high priced, well-healed attorney in her dealings with the leader of the free world. (Schrobsdorff, 2018, pg. 18) This is a far cry from the inability of prostitutes who are unable to successfully pursue a full course of legal remedies- from filing a rape or assault report to pursing a discrimination suit against an employer in the sex industry. (Koster, 2018) Some involved with the uppermost levels of society- paid well versus migrant, transgendered, women of color, etc. the role that plays in empowerment of sex workers. This stratification leaves vulnerable males, especially in the queer community, at bottom of the totem pole to receive resources, legal remedy, visibility, etc. (Pienta, 2013, pg. 89) Intersectionality, which usually displays a detriment towards women, in this case, explains why male sex workers are on the bottom of the totem pole in terms of access to basic human rights. In the queer community, young people, males in particular, often turn to sex work after being rejected by their families and communities. Faced with life on the street, food insecurity, and lack of social supports, sex work is a logical choice for young people who lack skills and life experience to find work to support themselves. (Farnsworth, 2016)
-Orientalism accounts for the justification of exploiting people of color broadly, and women specifically. Harkening back to the time of European colonialism, there is a pattern of dehumanizing victims in order to deny basic human rights and consideration. Further, the moral expectation of gender normative relationships derived from European society informs the assumption that sex workers are predominantly women and denies that male sex workers exist, are desired, and therefore are of a significant number needing harm reduction, legal protections, and other benefits of empowerment. (Pienta, 2013, pg. 90)
It should be noted that juvenile sex workers cannot be said to be empowered in this context because they are not of age. There is no way to empower a juvenile sex worker because they don’t have the capacity to consent. This is different from the adult male or female sex worker who chooses sex work as a way to meet economic obligations. The goal dealing with children is to provide social and legal avenues to get out of sex work altogether and heal from the social pressures and illegalities that put them in that position in the first place.

There are a few different major key concepts that go into this discussion. Starting with gender, when discussing gender in the sex work field it is very evident that there is a gender seperation. As described in "Taking Sides," a sex worker is typically described as a "she" or "her". Men sex workers are almost completely invisible compared to female sex workers. Economics also play a major part in this discussion. It is very hard to disinguish whether or not someone ivolved in the sex working field is indeed a sex worker or a sex "slave". How is one suppose to know when sex trafficking is what is really going on behind closed doors. Another economical issue would be the risk of spreading major diseases. Knowing the risk of the diseases anf how to prevent and/or treat before being involved would help stop the spread of them in the sex working field.
Another concept that is over looked with this topic is female empowerment. A lot of women say that they do this line of work to feel dominant or in control of a type of situation that females typically are not. I read an interesting narrative by Emily Eveland, telling her story of working as a sex worker. Although it is explicit with graphic details, it shows you what the life of a sex worker is really like. Emily goes into detail of why she started doing it, the events that happened to her, diseases that came into her life, and also how she left the business. I found her story to be very interesting, so here is the link if you want to read it.

Today in the Topic

What is the current state of this topic?
To live the life and to work as a sex worker, the stakes are high for violence, and in some extreme cases, murder. Earlier this year in April, the president had signed a new bill called the Senate’s Stop Enabling Sex-Trafficking Act and the House’s Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act. This has taken away the field of sex websites, and with it, the safety of online sex working, for work such as screening. Sex workers, since 2014, have been forced to work outside of the safety of their own home and continue their work on the streets. The new bill has also caused most sex workers to fall into many circumstances of human trafficking and rape, and having to fall back into the control of their previous pimps, to ensue clients. In the new bill being passed, multiple sites and platforms have been taken down and with that , "seven of its founders were indicted with total of 93 counts of money laundering and facilitating prostitution" (Siouxsie Q). When dealing with the sex industry, it brings a lot of risk. As stated before, there is a major safety hazard within this community. Siouxsie Q say, "sex workers are more likely to be murdered on the job than police officers, 400 percent more likely to face violence than the average worker and largely unable to access the justice system when they are victimized". It is estimated that 1,000,000 people are involved in the sex industry within the United States, so this is not a lightly populated career choice. Due to the passing of the Senate’s Stop Enabling Sex-Trafficking Act and the House’s Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, there has been a large increase in the amount of street work and prostitutes, having to go back or begin a new career with a pimp. Either the people in this industry truly feel empowered and like they gain something from doing this kind of work or they just want to stick to what they know and keep the salary that they have become accustomed too. Whichever it may be, it is causing this industry to continue to thrive.

Reasons for Controversy

Why is this a controversial topic? There's more to each of our topics than differences of opinion. What are the reasons? (You may find as you read the text that what appears to be opposition really isn't in all cases.)
One reason for controversy would be that sex working/prostitution is legal is some place for an example in Nevada. Another reason for controversy would be that it could open up new jobs. However, its age discriminatory because not many would like older people. With sex trafficking and our safety how do we know that these "sex workers" are not being held against their will. Gender roles as well because when you think of a sex worker you think more of a prostitute and then you think mainly women. Even the readings in 3.2 of the book sounded very gender specific.

There are many reasons for if sex work can be empowering. For some they view sex work as validation. It increases self-worth and their self-esteem because people want them for specific reasons. This is usually not the case with sex workers who have a "pimp" because then it turns from validation to belittlement. Sex work can give people a sense of independence and the feeling of being needed. However, there are also people who disagree with sex work as a profession because it clashes with their morals and religious beliefs. Many people find sex work as degrading and exploitative, but others just view it as another profession. There are also people who do not believe sex work is empowering because of their sexual orientation.
There are many who feel that sex workers don’t deserve human rights and the protection that it affords because their work is immoral. It should remain illegal and its participants punished. Therefore, the risks associated with sex work are deserved. The idea that sex workers want to access to workplace protections are an affront to family values, social stratification, the women with “real jobs” (Grant, 2014), and those who benefit from the male dominated social structure. (Pienta, 2013, pg. 29)
A distinction should be made when discussing the concept of empowerment. Sex workers having the ability to seek justice, safety, freedom from violence, and other forms of risk reduction should be the right of all humans. The expectation of access to these rights are necessary to improve the lives of most sex workers. Is this goal the definition of empowerment or simply being able to use the rights afforded them as humans? This goal is evolutionary, like most social movements. And like most social movements, this consists of a tug of war between sex workers, activists, politicians, academia, and citizens. It is being fought in the milieu of a culture still largely defined by patriarchy, puritanical ideals, colonialism, and all of the isms that those constructs create. It will not be attained by sex workers alone, but by the participation of many concerned with varied opinions and varied levels of power and influence. Much controversy is founded in this space.
Can the self- empowerment of sex workers truly exist? It may seem so for some of the more successful sex-worker working in the more profitable, safer strata of sex work, such as high-priced call girls, celebrity porn stars. As for the drug addicted street walker, the young male queer sex worker, or the many that turned to sex work because of the lack of opportunities? Can the involuntary participation in a cultural that they cannot control be considered empowerment?

Common Ground

When it comes to the sex industry world, there are many different choices and ways of doing it than people really think about. The options available within the sex industry has grown greatly in the recent years. With the internet becoming so easily accessible, the options there alone are quite the many. There are some people that work on the street and with pimps, some work through web cam only, or produce videos, some go through websites and pay per view, and possibly more. There are different areas and levels that you can choose to go with, but the big difference when it comes down to a sex worker and sex trafficking is “choice”. Those that are sex workers chose this and can choose to leave if they want. That may be as close to common ground that this topic can get. There is a choice to stay out of the sex work environment when doing it for personal gain or reasoning. Although, sex trafficking is a different story. People do not choose to be part of the exchanges that happen everyday dealing with sex trafficking. If they do, they are the people running the moves and deals. Sex trafficking is not only something where the people involved didn’t have a choice, but it is something that once introduced too, is nearly impossible to get away from. The treatment is so different between the two and also the long term effects of trafficking has showed evidence that it changes that whole person completely; brainwashes them. In the sex industry, the worlds of a sex worker and a sex trafficker will never have common ground.

See Also

As the term progresses, you should be able to link to other topics on other pages and return to previous pages and insert those links retroactively.
Back in section 1.2-Should the Federal Government Adopt a New Legal Definition of Rape? the definition of rape should be taken into consideration for sex workers and the sexual violence that comes with it. In some rape laws, prostitution is excluded in being considered for rape victims. The definition of rape is when one party is participating in sexual acts without consent. In the circumstance of prostitution, some rape laws across our government believe that within the field of sex working, consent for sexual relations is implied, and therefore not considered as rape.


Butler, Cheryl Nelson. (2015) A Critical Race Feminist Perspective on Prostitution & Sex Trafficking in America. Yale Journal of Law and Feminism: Volume 27 Issue.
Farnsworth, Stephanie. Why LGBT and Sex Worker Rights Go Hand-In-Hand. 2016. Huffington Post.
Grant, Melissa Gira. (2014). Let’s Call Sex Work What It Is: Work. The Nation.
Koster, Katherine. (2018). 17 Facts About Sexual Violence and Sex Work: Huffington Post.
Lampen, Clair. (2018). Here's Why Sex Work Is Legitimate: Daily Dot. Complex Media Inc.
Pienta, R. (2013). Taking sides: CClashing views in womens studies. New York: McGraw-Hill Education Create.
Schrobsdorff, S. (2018). Stormy Daniels: Underestimated Warrior. Time, 191(13), 17–18. Retrieved from
Siouxsie, Q. (2018). The War on Sex Workers Needs to Stop Now: Rolling Stone. Penske Business Media, LLC.
Studies from Center for Disease Control and Prevention Provide New Data on HIV/AIDS (Prevalence of HIV Among US Female Sex Workers: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis). (2016, October 17). AIDS Weekly, 134. Retrieved from
Paul, S. (2018). The economics of the sex trade. Retrieved from
Forbes, A. (2015). FEATURE: Speaking of sex workers: How suppression of research has distorted the United States’ domestic HIV response. Reproductive Health Matters, 23, 21–29.

External Links

Eveland, Emily, and Jia Sung. “I Thought Sex Work Would Be Empowering and Feminist. I Was Dead Wrong.” Narratively, Narratively, 2 Aug. 2018,
If there are additional links to which you'd like to refer readers, this is the place to insert them. All links above this section should be internal to our Wikidot site.