This is our truth, tell us yours
This is just a sketch for a longer blogpost.
One of the issues that always arises around sex work is the issue of ill health. Not so much the public health issues- the idea of sex workers as vectors of infection has faded somewhat,but the idea put about by SWERFs and their ilk that sex work is something so dangerous that women need to be rescued from it for the sake of their health.
Oddly, you don’t see many SWERF’s outside coalmines campaigning for them to be closed. However, obvious points aside, it made me wonder about the hoary old chestnut about whether work makes us ill, or whether we take our illnesses into the workplace.t
That’s where coal mining provides some handy examples. If you have a lung disease that only coal miners get, or vibration white finger, or missing parts of your limbs because of a rock fall, that’s ill health attributable to the workplace. If you’re an alcoholic ex-miner, you may struggle to prove your ill health is work place related.
When people are studying the ill health of sex workers, they most often start with street workers, or workers in the most obvious of venues, such as massage parlours. They’re the best known symbols of sex work.
I did something similar above. I chose the best known type of coal miner, the faceworker (or hewer, as it said on my grand-dad’s death certificate) not the twenty first century coal miner, who drives a dragline or a dump truck in surface mine.
Not all sex workers are street workers.
That needs saying, repeatedly; not all sex workers are street workers, nor do all sex workers work at the volume end of the market. The variation between sex workers experiences is brilliantly illustrated by the table in this study.
As I have said elsewhere, I used to be a recruiter in the contact centre industry. For each project we had to asess what barriers to entry we would put in the way of potential recruits. Need a team for a long term project for a blue chip client? You need the best staff, so you add in incentives (like the chance of a career at the blue chip) but also rise your entry standards to avoid revenue losing candidates who will have a bad sickness record.
On other contracts you’ll have lower standards of recruitment and more problems; desperate to get seats filled you’ll ignore warning signs, and you’ll end up recruiting people who bring their past and their problems with them. That will include people with drug problems, with drink problems, with mental health issues. We dealt with all of that, and more besides, including the fall out like staff missing work because they were in court for non payment of fines for possession or disorder.
The point of saying all this?
There are very few barriers to entry for street sex work. No-one is there to say ‘we’re not employing you because of your drink or drug problems.’ My experience is that the lower the barriers to entry, the less healthy the workforce. Orwell had similar to say in Down and Out In Paris and London.
If you wish to rescue street prostitutes from their ill health, tackle the ill health, not the work they do. Make the people healthier, not the job more difficult.