20 excellent articles about sex work every feminist should read

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  • On Sunday 24 April 2016 I’m running the London Marathon to fundraise for Amnesty International (UK) – the grassroots NGO standing up for human rights everywhere.
  • And if I can, I will do so carrying a red umbrella – the international awareness-raising symbol of violence and stigma faced by sex workers.

I’m an ally, not a sex worker myself, but I’ve had the privilege hearing sex workers explain why decriminalisation of what consenting adults do in private would make them safer, reduce stigma, and help to end abuse where it occurs. I’d love for other feminists to be more informed about sex work too.

There’s plenty of evidence-led research worth exploring in print and online; for the time-poor feminist, however, here are some of my favourite articles and points of view.

1. Amnesty Policy to Protect Human Rights of Sex Workers Q&A

Essential reading on why @AmnestyUK supports sex workers’ human rights through decriminalisation

2. Sex work and empowerment

A personal article by @kateiselin about how one sex worker found her feminism.

3. Want to know how to make sex work safe? Ask sex workers 

Niki Adams, spokeswoman for @ProstitutesColl, on the evidence presented to parliament by sex workers themselves. Listening is the crucial first step.

4. 17 Facts About Sexual Violence and Sex Work

Katherine Koster from @swopusa on the prevalence of violence experienced by sex workers and the barriers they face to accessing justice.

5. Another beautiful kind soul has been taken from this world

A heartfelt reaction by @xxxescortamber, a young, black woman, on how the media reported the murder of one of her peers.

6. Sex work is not trafficking: a summary

Conflating sex work with trafficking is contrary to the facts and helps nobody: @GlobalSexWork clarifies matters in this superb resource. They have lots of material on their website on numerous sex work topics.

7. Trans Day of Remembrance Fact Sheet

@swopusa resource focusing on the needs and rights of transgender people.

8. I’m a Sex Worker, and This is What I’ll tell my Child

@ElleStanger explains issues such as body autonomy to her toddler. A reminder, in case it were needed, that sex workers are real people with families.

9. “Junkie Whore”—What Life Is Really Like for Sex Workers on Heroin

A brave article by @marginalutilite about the extra stigma faced by drug-using sex workers and how are they are more vulnerable to violence because of it.

10. Price of Intimacy: The Time I Hired a Sex Worker

There could be any number of reasons why a client turns to a provider of sex services to experience physical intimacy they cannot achieve through dating. This article by @deliciouslydrew, a man living with cerebral palsy, is about hiring a male sex worker and is wonderfully honest.

11. ‘I have to remind people I can still be dirty’: the female porn directors calling the shots 

While female film directors continue to be overlooked by mainstream awards, when it comes to porn, @TheBreeMills, @tashareign and @JoannaAngel enjoy more recognition and autonomy than most.

12. The Price of Knowledge: Discrimination Against Sex Workers In Academia

@juniperfitz writes with wit and passion. It turns out brilliant scholars can also be sex workers, and vice versa, but their colleagues don’t always see it that way.

13. Sex Work Style Guide 

The vocabulary of sex work can be confusing for lay people, but if the mainstream media adopts @mistressmatisse‘s Style Guide, it will help clarify things enormously.


@ProstitutesColl debunk some common myths. My personal favourite:

“CLAIM #11 Prostitution is not about sex. It is about exploitation, violence and abuse. FACT #11:​ Prostitution is about ….. money!”

15. Facts about sex workers and the myths that help spread HIV

@TheLancet supports decriminalisation of sex work – can you get more serious and sciencey than that? They have great resources on their website, but this infographic is the best.

16. Sex worker and activist Laura Lee: ‘It’s now far more difficult to stay safe’ 

@GlasgaeLauraLee is an advocate for sex worker rights, taking the fight to the highest level in Northern Ireland. In this interview, she explains why. 

17. Swedish Abolitionism as Violence Against Women

Dr Jay Levy did his PhD research at University of Cambridge and it is widely regarded as the only proper research to explore real outcomes of the ‘Swedish Model’. This summary paper published by @SexWorkerOU explains how criminalisation of the buyer makes sex work more dangerous for the seller.

18. What is a reference? Why do some escorts request one?

From the abstract to the particular: a post by @MsCharlotteX to potential clients on her screening procedure. (This kind of safety precaution is what is undermined by imposing an ‘end demand’ or ‘Swedish Model’ approach.)

19. SEX WORK LAW REFORM: Bringing the New Zealand model to Scotland

Briefing materials on the work done by @JeanUrquhartHI and @ScotPep to make sex workers in Scotland safer.

20. Decriminalise sex work for safety’s sake

If you’re a feminist who is convinced by the evidence and lived experiences of sex workers – and want to help – you can do so by adding your signature to @ProstitutesColl’s #pledgedecrim petition. 

(And maybe, if you’re feeling generous, consider make a donation to Amnesty UK via my Red Umbrella Run fundraising page!)

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