Why Decriminalize Sex Work?

 

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The topic of decriminalizing prostitution is tricky. It elicits a spectrum of responses from people based on their beliefs that translate into judgment of those who choose to participate in sex for money. The term sex work extends beyond prostitution to more broadly include the kinds of exchanges of sex-for-money or -goods commerce millions of people around the world are engaged in each day. (For most of this blog I will refer to prostitution but I think it is important to note the range of sexual experiences for sale include, but are not limited to: escorts, exotic dancers, sex surrogates, webcam performers, pornographic film actors, etc..)

Feminist perspectives on sex work tend to be either pro-prohibition (radical) or pro-decriminalization (liberal). Radical feminists believe sex work to be inherently violent.  They believe that the choice to do sex work is merely an illusion of choice.  According to their stance, only abolition will free women from the bondage of this patriarchal work that is a kin to the kind of slavery women have historically experienced. Liberal feminists disagree with radical feminists in that they believe that sex work is a viable choice people can make and that the real crime is the marginalization and stigmatization of those who choose this profession. They contend that harm occurs when the people who choose sex work must operate outside of daylight and decriminalization would positively affect their ability to achieve safe working conditions.

prostitution food label

Though they disagree on the causes, both feminist perspectives agree that sex workers experience considerable harm.  Due to the intimacy of their work the potential for harm is ever-present making sex work distinctly different from other kinds of work.  I believe it is important to take note of the conditions that bring people to perform sex work.  Some perform sex work as a result of negative primary sexual experiences that shape their relationship to intimacy and sex.  Some perform sex work to support their addictions, while millions of young children and teens around the world are trafficked into sex work.  Many transgendered people come to sex work because employment discrimination is rampant and few other work options exists for them. For these groups of people the issue of consent is complicated.  For them, sex work is not a choice, sex work is survival.  Should these workers need help from the police, they face re-victimization. A recent study of female sex workers in San Francisco found that 21% of the women interviewed received money in exchange for sex from a police officer while 14% had been threatened with arrest unless they had sex with an officer.  Power abuse of sex workers is not new, but the ability to gather and disseminate knowledge of these occurrences is relatively new.  Thanks to social media and 24 hour news cycles there is greater spread of news like the cases in Hawaii, OaklandOklahoma, and New York, for example.

So why advocate for decriminalization? Because sex work is still work and those adults who make concerted decisions to enter sex work deserve labor protections. Decriminalization of the industry could de-stigmatize workers and lessen the marginalization of their experiences. The advocacy group Sex Workers Outreach Project  (SWOP) believes that decriminalization of sex work is a fundamental human rights issue. SWOP argues that negative social ideas about the respectability of sex work has allowed for increased criminalization and recidivism, and unanswered violence and death in their community. Speaking for sex workers is another way of marginalizing their experiences, even by well-meaning groups. Excluding sex workers from movements that purport to be about the elimination of violence against sex work, violence about their very bodies, keeps them powerless.  Sex worker art movements have given sex workers platforms to express their views on how their work affects them and the space to turn their personal concerns about the injustices of their work places into political statements.  Their work sparks conversations that lead to normalizing their work and towards addressing the ways that violence functions in sex work, how to truly help victimized workers, and ultimately, how to achieve justice for crimes committed against them.

New Zealand’s Prostitution Reform Act offers an example of what could happen if sex workers were allowed greater agency and controls over sex work. Its passage 14 years ago made New Zealand sex workers able to offer in and out call services and, in making legal prostitution, made illegal the actions of abusive and unpaid clients. Sex workers were able to call police for help and actually receive justice. This increased collaboration with law enforcement has also increased sex workers willingness to assist police in solving crimes against their community, another effect of legitimization of their work. It is still an imperfect system but it allows for the kind of agency, dignity and empowerment consenting sex workers around the world deserve.

Doctor Rights VS Midwife Rights Who has the right? We do, right?

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Picture from http://www.advocarepremierobgyn.com

Unless you’re pregnant or planning to have a baby most people assume they’re going to deliver their baby in the delivery room of a hospital. Yet many mothers who want to have an at home birth are very frowned upon. However, midwives are growing in popularity, “In 1989, certified nurse-midwives delivered 3.2 percent of all U.S. babies. In 2008, that number had risen to 7.5 percent.” But choosing who will deliver your baby is a highly personal decision that takes times.

Making a decision is especially hard for a first time mother here’s a look of each profession to help make the decision a bit easier.

OB-GYN’s, they’re the go to, your star quarter back player. People feel like they can trust doctors, because they have had to go through many years of medical school, and intense training. What about midwives? What if I told you they were educated also, does this change your mind? According to the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), “The majority of midwives earn bachelor’s degrees, then work as registered nurses and go back to school for a two- or three-year master’s degree program in midwifery.” Now we know, they are both very highly experienced and licensed.

Is money or insurance a concern? It shouldn’t be most insurance companies cover both OB-GYN and midwifery services, such companies include Kaiser, Clifton, Obamacare, and more. Not all insurance companies do however, but you can check by going on http://www.gohealthinsurance.com/blog/coverage/entry/does-my-health-insurance-cover-midwives or requesting a quote, just a google click away from having a bundle of joy.

That’s the boring stuff, what about the actual day, what do you expect? Will you feel prepared, or nervous? Besides the overwhelming feelings, let me assure you what a doctor can provide for you, as well as a midwife. For a birth delivery in the hospital the work is pretty standard. You’ll probably be at home while your water breaks, and that’s an indicator you’re going into labor. You’ll rush to the hospital usually with a bag with clothes and the waiting begins. Labor usually last anywhere from 18 to 32 hours. You’ll be put in a room nurses will assist with the pain if wanted or needed. You won’t see you OB-GYN until you’re basically ready to pop. Your OB-GYN will then put their gloves on and deliver your baby, then leave as they need to deliver other babies. The nurses will stay with you to make sure your baby is okay, then once you’re both fine they’ll let you go home. However in some cases if the baby isn’t coming out or there’s complications doctors are allowed to use vacuums to help with the delivery or other tools.

Image result for natural birth pictures diagram Picture from https://www.britannica.com/science/labor-childbirth

An at home birth is a lot like it sounds. Usually the midwife will come over or already be over once the water breaks and you relax. Many people don’t realize that giving labor is natural, women’s bodies are meant to give birth. It sounds scary at first but it’s not as bad as you think. You’re in the comfort of your own home, in bed, with whoever you trust most with you, you can have your whole family over if you wanted, but it just comes out. The midwife will be with you at all times making sure you’re okay, and will even let you walk around if needed to help with the process.

Despite what you decide, don’t let anyone make you feel bad, this is your body, your baby, your choice. Chose whichever will make you more comfortable, if that’s a home birth then do it, power to you!