Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Why I don’t use the term ‘sex work

It’s a manipulative reframing of sex and the sex industry that intentionally obfuscates the reality of porn and prostitution.

I and a few anti-sex industry activists, radical feminists, and women who managed to exit the sex trade fought for many years against the rebranding of prostitution and porn as “sex work.” We lost. The term is pretty much mainstream now, used widely across liberal media, within progressive and feminist circles, in academia, and beyond. I still refuse to use the term without quotation marks. Here’s why.

Sex is not work. I realize that this has the potential to read and be used as yet another empty activist mantra, but I think I can explain why it is useful and even important to understand.

Of course sex can be “work,” which is to say that either you can perform sex acts for pay or you can view sex as a form of labour (either in or out of a relationship). From an ethical standpoint I view this approach to sex as unethical and harmful.

Sex is fun. Or it should be, anyway. It is one of the most pleasurable things in life. It creates bonds, intimacy, and physical pleasure unlike anything else. When we orgasm, our brains release dopamine and oxytocin, known as the “love” or bonding hormone — it faciliates trust, romantic attachment, and mother-baby bonding (through breastfreeding, which also releases oxytocin). Sex is intimate, whether you like it or not. It is the closest you can be to another human, and for women especially, it is an incredibly vulnerable position to be in.


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