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10 Reasons to End the War on Drugs and the War on Sex Workers

Photo Credit: Feminist Fightback/Flickr Creative Commons

Sex and drugs are two of the many controversial and greatly charged topics in American culture, and the tie between them extends distant over their shared organisation with the epicurean impulse.

Sex and drugs can be absolute ways to change consciousness, to promote surrender, to reanimate and to reconnect. But there’s nonetheless another critical couple to be finished between the two: the rough prohibitionist wars on drugs and sex work.

As someone with knowledge fighting for both drug users’ and sex workers’ rights, we am struck by the mirroring of underlying issues at play.


Sex workers and drug users share the controversial eminence of being two groups of people who are consistently and mostly acceptably monotonous and maligned as a whole, even in supposed on-going circles.

The ubiquitous campaign against sex work by state and sovereign laws (as good as lobbying by anti-trafficking organizations) is not generally called the War on Sex Workers—but that’s effectively what’s holding place. Selling passionate services is illegal, and many activities that help safeguard the reserve of sex workers are criminalized under pimping or trafficking laws.

Like the War on Drugs, these laws serve marginalize the many marginalized. Just as the drug fight creates drug-taking some-more dangerous and disproportionately affects the many vulnerable, the War on Sex Workers creates sex work some-more dangerous too—unfairly targeting certain workers shaped on gender, race and class.

Here are 10 reasons finale the War on Sex Workers creates as much clarity as finale the War on Drugs:

1. Criminalization increases mistreat and dangers (but legalization isn’t the answer either).

We already know that the criminalization of drugs has a whole slew of unintended disastrous effects, from polluted and potentially dangerous product on the marketplace to the astray targeting of certain populations in its enforcement.

Similarly, criminalizing sex work creates mistreat and creates sex work some-more dangerous. Sex workers have no insurance under the law if they are robbed, beaten or raped on the job. (Some still don’t trust a sex worker can be raped.)

When sex workers knowledge theft, rape or other assault, there is no way for them to go to the police. Sex workers who are traffic with a coercive pull can be left feeling contingent on them, removed in the underground. Criminal annals for sex work (just like annals for drug convictions) mostly forestall those who do wish out of sex work from being means to get a opposite job.

Let’s not forget to discuss that police disproportionately aim street-based workers, generally trans women and women of color. In some places, carrying condoms is used as justification of the vigilant of prostitution—meaning that sex workers are being incentivized not to strengthen their health and the health of others, given doing so risks arrest.

However, legalization is not ideal either. Legalization is a retreat criminalization that fundamentally creates a two-tiered system, with some activity remaining underground. The volume of tarnish around sex work flattering much guarantees that many sex workers are not going to wish to register with the supervision under their authorised names.

Regulation also involves jumping by hoops, mostly requiring additional time and money, a routine that favors some-more absolved workers. The many exposed workers are left to work in the subterraneous and continue to face all of the dangers of criminalized sex work. The legalization of sex work in Germany and the Netherlands has demonstrated the debility and ultimately, failure, of this model.

Decriminalizing would make it probable to prosecute aroused clients and to yield social services for exiting sex work outward of the rapist probity system. It would also concede sex workers the leisure to continue their work as they choose, solely with a rebate in intensity harm.

New Zealand decriminalized sex work in 2003 and its laws sojourn the indication sex worker organizations impute to as the ideal for their rights and safety.

Ninety-six percent of street-based sex workers in New Zealand contend they feel the law protects their rights. This can substantially be attributed to the fact that the New Zealand supervision worked directly with sex workers in sequence to create laws, something that is so mostly blank from contention and legislation of the sex attention elsewhere. One renouned sex worker criticism aphorism is “Nothing about us but us!”

2. Stigma around sex work and drug use compounds harm.

The tarnish around drugs means many users fear that the find of their use could lead to all from the detriment of their pursuit to the detriment of their children.

Stigma can also forestall users from asking for help and support when struggling with their attribute to substances. Similarly, sex workers mostly bring tarnish as the many damaging aspect of their work. And many sex workers who do wish to switch professions find that tarnish creates it formidable to explain resume gaps, etc.

At the very least, tarnish is isolating and psychologically harmful. But de-stigmatizing sex work wouldn’t just urge sex workers’ mental health and good being—it would help urge their earthy reserve as well.

One can see both laws and social attitudes reflected in some clients’ diagnosis of passionate service providers. The tarnish of the “dirty whore” facilitates socially excusable feeling towards sex workers—and leads to a complement that has come to accept assault towards them as an unavoidable outcome of their work rather than a governmental problem that needs to be addressed.

3. People of tone and those on the revoke finish of the socioeconomic scale are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement.

Generally, those with mercantile payoff are some-more likely to get divided with using their illegal piece of choice. Similar manners request in the stream duress of the fight on sex workers. Street-based sex workers are targeted for detain many often, with trans women and women of tone (sex workers or not) profiled distant some-more frequently.

In New York City only one third of the race is black, nonetheless black defendants face 69 percent of charges brought before the probity for prostitution-related offenses and 94 percent of the charges for the deceptive offense of “loitering for the functions of prostitution.”

Discrimination occurs along socioeconomic lines as well. When law duress officers theatre setups, they mostly respond to ads on websites such as Craigslist and Backpage, where sex workers can publicize openly or cheaply. (These inexpensive promotion sites are frequently the last cause in either sex workers can work exclusively indoors or need to work on the street and/or for a third party, and their shutdown can be financially devastating.) Meanwhile, websites that need tens or even hundreds of dollars a month to publicize on, which support to sex workers with aloft rates and wealthier clientele, are left alone.

4. Both wars use law duress and seizure responses to what are much broader social problems.

Our society’s rapist probity proceed to the fight on drugs (and as the shining author Gabor Maté mostly says, this complement of probity truly is criminal) depends success by detain numbers. In doing so, we equivocate having to face the underlying and intersecting social issues of addiction, poverty, trauma, injustice and other marginalization.

Similarly, the War on Sex Workers allows us to equivocate issues like transphobia, homophobia, misogyny, poverty, homeless youth, immigration, labor rights and constructional inequality under capitalism. The law duress proceed to sex work gives a clearly easy solution to what are impossibly formidable problems autochthonous to a society. It allows politicians to tell their electorate they have acted to solve the problem, while actually regulating zero and mostly compounding the struggles of society’s many vulnerable.

5. Both wars clear themselves by assault around “trafficking.”

Some of us have lived prolonged adequate to remember the assault around drug trafficking back in the ‘80s that now finds its together in the new blast of regard over sex trafficking. Both are cases of a dignified panic driven by “noble intentions” and an “end demand” prohibitionist approach.

Yet, we all know how that story ended: mandating some-more law enforcement, appropriation police militarization, and enforcing stricter laws unleashed an inhumane fight on the many marginalized in a society—without any success in shortening drug use or the assault surrounding it.

The fight on sex trafficking is having the same effect, with the renouned trend of harsher sentences for trafficking offenses (including new imperative minimums) and outrageous amounts of appropriation to agencies to fight sex trafficking. What’s frequency talked about is that many sex trafficking stings finish up rounding up sex workers in shackles who were operative of their own consent.

In the ‘90s, an unholy fondness was shaped between devout Christians and some radical feminists, who worked to rebrand their (by now unpopular) bulletin of eradicating harlotry as a campaign to finish sex trafficking. Who could disagree with the fight to finish passionate slavery?

But heading anti-trafficking organizations such as the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) conclude all sex work as trafficking. They pushed their redefinition of blurb sex as “sexual exploitation” into the U.N. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which was authorized and sealed by 117 countries. The ubiquitous open stays unknowingly of the custom (along with the ever-expanding operation of anti-trafficking laws around the globe) that provides authorised and dignified cover to aim sex work under the guise of fighting trafficking.

Organizations such as CATW do not commend the existence of intentional sex work given by their definition, all harlotry is assault against women (never mind the untimely fact that a lot of sex workers aren’t women). This strategy of rebranding the fight to annul harlotry as one of eradicating passionate labour has mostly succeeded—it’s now unfit to have a contention about sex work now but also deliberating trafficking.

Trafficking of people into forced labor, in the sex attention or any other industry, is clearly abhorrent. But too mostly the activities now targeted under anti-trafficking laws are consensual acts between adults. One can be prosecuted as a “trafficker” for charity or soliciting paid sex, vital with a sex worker, using a personal promotion website or being a sex worker’s motorist or certainty person.

In genuine life, “sex trafficking” occasionally resemble the images of unfortunate immature girls firm at the wrists intoxicated all over “end modern-day slavery” campaigns. Under stream U.S. law, anyone rebate than eighteen years old and selling sex is “trafficked.”

Underage “trafficking victims” are typically street-based girl (most ordinarily between 15 and 17 years old) trade sex for survival. Recent studies have found that the infancy of these underage sex workers are selling sex but the assist of a pull or pimp—90 percent in New York City, according to a study from John Jay College (the same study found 45 percent of underage sex workers to be boys).  This race would be much better served by the assistance of well-funded social services than by an boost in appropriation for law enforcement.

Even migrant workers “rescued” under anti-trafficking laws were many mostly already sex workers in their home country who immigrated illegally to work in the sex attention here.

We can immediately change the series of people influenced by sex trafficking by providing some-more preserve beds for the homeless (particularly LGBT youth), expanding supervision programs that yield food and housing, and providing opportunities for pursuit training. As Elizabeth Nolan Brown writes, “For the immeasurable infancy of exposed sex workers, the biggest separator to exit aren’t ankle-cuffs, isolation, and murky kidnappers with guns, but a skip of money, transportation, identification, or other unsentimental things. Is assisting with this things not voluptuous enough?”

6. “End demand” doesn’t work.

“Ending the direct for drugs is how, in the end, we will win,” President Ronald Reagan told us in 1988. “The tide of the battle has incited and we’re commencement to win the electioneer for a drug-free America.”

Of course, the series of Americans using unlawful drugs has only increasing given then, billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jail sentences later.

The “Nordic model” to “end demand” for sex work (which is law in Scandinavia, France, and Canada and is fast conversion American policy) criminalizes shopping sex but not selling it. Just as in the fight on drugs, the Nordic indication so renouned in feminist circles theorizes that if only we can make adequate arrests or make the punishment serious enough, direct will finish and people will stop trying to squeeze passionate services. Not only is this shaped on a fake premise, but—contrary to the visit claims by supporters that this law only punishes “johns”—it directly harms sex workers.

You can’t criminalize a worker’s business and not negatively impact the worker’s life as well. These laws have not only unsuccessful to revoke harlotry in places like Sweden, but have actually finished life some-more dangerous for sex workers who, for example, now have rebate time to negotiate safer sex practices with shaken clients who fear arrest.

7. The genuine lived practice of drug users and of sex workers are underrepresented and widely misunderstood.

Due in no tiny partial to stigma, social portrayals of drug users and sex workers mostly skip the mark.

We’ve seen a slight change in this recently with the normalization of cannabis use and the analogous widening of mainstream portrayals of cannabis users as a result.

Representations of sex workers, however, sojourn separate along the dichotomies of “wealthy high difficulty call girl” contra “drug-addled street worker,” and of “happy and empowered” contra “desperate victim.”

The reality is much some-more nuanced and complex—i.e., human. When will we see the story of the singular mom ancillary her children by sex work? The trans teen kicked out of their residence and trying to survive? The tyro putting themselves by college?

A together tarnish exists for those who squeeze sex, quite if they are men. “Johns” are mostly demonized as lascivious, assertive or abusive. But the reality is many men who buy sex are just normal guys.

Where are the stories of the waste man on a business trip, the cripplingly bashful man who hasn’t gotten laid in years, the man with the anticipation he’s too ashamed to share with a partner, the divorcee trying to get his mojo back after a terrible betrayal, or the infirm man who yearns for intimacy?

8. Criminalizing drugs and sex workdeniesfundamental human rights to cognitive autocracy and corporeal autonomy. 

Anti-sex work and anti-drug laws both criminalize activity between consenting adults. Taking drugs and selling sex are consensual crimes where there is no “victim.”

Imagine if we could accept that any person is the best consultant on their own life, that we all rivet in risk and mistreat rebate all of the time, and motionless to live their own life.

Drug remodel campaigners infrequently disagree that the right to take certain substances falls under the difficulty of cognitive liberty, the right to “mental self-determination” or to change one’s alertness as one so chooses.

Sex work has its together here in the element of corporeal autonomy—that is, corporeal self-determination. If someone chooses to have transactional sex, that’s their physique and their right to choose.

Sex can mostly be transactional, even outward of sex work. We don’t detain sugar babies and sugar daddies. Most would find it ridiculous to prosecute someone who felt they should have sex after someone paid for an costly date. And we would never dream of punishing wives that give their husband verbal sex to acquire a preference later. Laws that dissuade this transaction from holding place in sell for cash instead are simply a righteous hangover.

9. Laws prohibiting drugs and sex work simulate America’s righteous heritage.

The righteous incentive is alive and good in America—as is all the pomposity that comes with it.

We retaliate people for using some substances (illegal drugs) but not others (alcohol, authorised medication drugs) whose use can also perceptible as anything from life-enhancing to submissive to life-destroying.

Similarly, we retaliate someone for selling a passionate service to another person—but only if they’re not being filmed to have the video sole on the internet after (pornography). We also concede and infrequently even design people to gain on their sexuality (as the proverb goes, “sex sells”) but have a genuine problem with (particularly women) actually selling sex for themselves rather than for a corporation.

Sue Bradford, member of the New Zealand Parliament, summed this indicate up good in her 2005 speech:

“We believed, and still do, that it was totally wrong to go on vital with an primitive law which criminalized generations of sex workers, especially women, for a victimless supposed crime in the name of antique moralities shared by only some of the population.”

In fact, just as countless cultures around the universe and via story have had authorised and dedicated occasions for the use of psychoactive substances, there is some justification to advise that ancient Mesopotamian temples priestesses supposing passionate rites in sell for donations to the temples. Having sex with a priestess, who was seen as a vital essence of the boundless Goddess herself, would have been seen as a way to ceremony and bond to Her. Conceiving of that luck requires a finish change in the Western bargain of sexuality and the sacred.

10. Drugs and sex work can be absolute collection for recovering and devout connection.

We now know that some drug use can lead to recovering or conceptual practice that have certain effects on people’s lives.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health found that participants who took naturalistic doses of “classic” psychedelics—magic mushrooms, DMT, mescaline and LSD—had significantly decreased odds of suicidal thoughts, self-murder attempts, and psychological distress. Psychedelic users were found to have 19 percent rebate odds of exhibiting psychological trouble in the past month, 14 percent revoke reports of suicidal thoughts and 36 percent revoke luck of suicidal attempts in the past year.

Beyond that, studies with substances such as psilocybin and MDMA have been found to be conspicuous healers for stress in those with depot illness, depression, PTSD, social stress in autism, etc. Psychedelic practice can lead to absolute unitive and visionary experiences.

Similarly, sex work can be another absolute apparatus for recovering and devout connection. Sex surrogates, sexological bodyworkers, dedicated intimates, and neo-tantrikas—all sex workers who concentration on passionate recovering and re-connection—can be seen as the subterraneous unusual therapists of sex work.

It is inherently recovering to be met in your nakedness and disadvantage with finish participation and acceptance, no rebate by a stranger. Sex workers can help recover passionate shame and guilt, work with discouraging passionate fantasies, overcome passionate mishap or dysfunction, build confidence, and yield passionate education. Data on these claims is nonetheless to be compiled, but we do know hold and cognisance are healing—and many of us don’t accept scarcely adequate of it.

Drugs and sex work can be triggering topics for a lot of people, but it’s time to acknowledge that we’ve been using the wrong strategy to residence them. It’s no fluke that organizations like the ACLU and Human Rights Watch are pulling for an finish to the War on Drugs at the same time that Amnesty International has called for worldwide decriminalization of prostitution. Prohibition, which only ever increases harm, must come to an end.

It’s time to start legally contrast drugs for purity, providing purify needles and entrance to condoms, and needing safer online markets like Silk Road and Backpage. It’s time to trust any person to make their own choices with what’s now accessible to them—whether they’re a Silicon Valley CEO microdosing LSD to come up with new ideas, a long-distance lorry motorist holding speed to stay watchful at work, a college tyro escorting to compensate fee or a singular mom selling passionate services to keep her kids fed.

To understanding with formidable matters such as obsession to drugs and duress in the sex industry, we can reinstate a law duress proceed and redesignate supports to concentration on ameliorating the conditions that leave people exposed to obsession and abuse to start with, by education, housing, social services and more. That starts with listening to personal narratives of those affected.

The dream? Once we’ve finished these wars on consensual human activity, destigmatized sex work and drug use, and entirely implemented a mistreat rebate approach, a whole new universe of luck opens.

Exploring one’s physique or mind is no longer finished with fear or guilt. Sex workers are seen as consultant educators and service providers like any other—and just like a masseuse or therapist, clients see them for all from pleasure and decrease to scrutiny and healing.

Drug users have the event to attend in guided practice with pristine substances to try their own alertness in a protected and understanding environment, where old traumas can be reexamined and new discernment can emerge.

In this future world, two of the many absolute collection we have for healing—reconnecting and exploring consciousness—are set free. And as a result, so are we.

Britta Love is a author and romantic shaped in Brooklyn. She gives monthly talks at the Tarot Society Gallery and Reading Room, and blogs at the Daily Transmission. 

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