Empowered?

Sex workers share thoughts on decriminalizing prostitution

A woman who works in the sex industry in Oakland, Calif., April 26, 2011. (Jim Wilson/The New York Times)

Writing for New York Magazine’s The Cut, Mac McClelland interviewed sex workers on an issue that has become a cause for debate among feminists — should sex work be decriminalized?

On one side, advocates for decriminalization argue that women should be empowered to own their sexuality and use their bodies as they choose — if a woman wants to sell her body for sex, why shouldn’t she be able to? Decriminalization advocates also argue that if sex work were legal, prostitutes would be better able to rely on legal protections, and law enforcement, to protect themselves from robbery, rape, and abuse. Amnesty International, the international human rights group, has voted to campaign for the full decriminalization of all aspects of sex work, from buying to selling. In 2012, 38 percent of Americans thought sex work should be legalized — last year, that number was up to 44 percent.

On the other side, Amnesty International’s endorsement of decriminalization prompted a response from more than 300 representatives of human rights organizations, writers, activists, and actresses — including Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep — who signed a letter arguing that full decriminalization would lead to an increase in involuntary sex slaves and “support a system of gender apartheid” in which resourceless women are reduced to objects of consumption. These opponents of decriminalization support the “Nordic Model,” practiced in countries such as Sweden, Norway, and Canada, which punishes brothels, pimps, and buyers, but not the sex workers themselves.

Read the full story at The Cut.

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