How To Be an Ally To Sex Workers
Sex workers are some of the most resilient, hard-working, and resourceful people on the planet. We are experts when it comes to intimacy, connection, and companionship; trailblazers in navigating boundaries and consent, and our impact has an immensely positive effect on society as a whole.
However, in a world where stigma and censorship around sex is steadily increasing, it is more important than ever to protect the rights and freedoms of sex workers worldwide. This is where allies play an important role. You don’t need to be a client, or be in a position to support a sex worker financially in order to be an ally!
An ally is anyone who aligns themselves with a marginalized group and promotes the social justice and empowerment of that group. If you believe that sex workers have the right to be safe, and if you believe that we deserve the same respect, freedoms and protections as any other worker, then I invite you to align yourself with us. Here are 10 practical ways that you can be an ally to sex workers today.
1. Educate yourself on the issues that affect sex workers
Many of us are vocal about the issues that affect us. Look for resources written and created by sex workers to find out more about our lives, our struggles, and the fight for decriminalization. Recent law and policy changes have directly affected our ability to work and to keep safe, everything from FOSTA/SESTA to the current attack on porn.
Informing yourself about current politics relating to sex work is an excellent way to stay engaged.
2. Be wary of media representations
Sex workers are heavily represented in media, everything from news articles, to film tropes, to Netflix. Many of these representations are sensationalized and perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Be critical of narratives that portray us as victims, and recognize that sex work is a diverse field that encompasses a wide range of experience. Look for art, articles and media created or endorsed by sex workers to get a more accurate picture.
3. Be conscious of your questions
Perhaps you are curious about different aspects of sex work, or have thoughts about entering the industry yourself? Be mindful of how you engage with workers online and in your personal life, and try to do your own research as much as possible. Many of us are asked about our work constantly, and often these questions come via our social media platforms, which are intended for advertising. Avoid invasive and disrespectful questions like “how much do you charge” or “how can I get paid without having sex?” and overly general questions like “how can I become a sex worker?” If you feel you must get in touch, ask consent first, and consider compensating that worker for their labour.
4. Recognize that sex work is work
Sex work is first and foremost a job and should be treated as such. We have good days and bad days! We don’t want to be fetishized, interrogated, or put on a pedestal. Most of us are doing this job to pay our bills, and we deserve the same rights and respect as any other worker.
5. Respect our discretion and boundaries
Sex work is a highly stigmatized profession, and it’s important not to ‘out’ us to people without our consent. Even if you have no problem with our work, it’s not your place to let others know. Respect our privacy in public settings, and honor our personal boundaries. Don’t assume that someone who does sex work is necessarily interested in having a threesome with you and your partner!
6. Support sex workers online
Social media is an incredible tool for sex workers to connect and share resources. You can find us on Twitter, Reddit, Tik tok, Instagram, Facebook, and more. Unfortunately our accounts are often shadowbanned or stuck in algorithm holes. Amplify our voices by liking and retweeting, share thoughts if you find them interesting, and report harassment when you see it.
7. Compensate us for our labour
We do a huge amount of emotional labour for people wanting us to educate them. We are often asked to speak about our experiences on panels or be included in articles and documentaries. Recognize the labour we do and compensate us accordingly, like you would any other worker.
8. Consider sex work in your vote
Get acquainted with the different political parties in your area, and find out their positions on sex work. Understand that sex work will happen, regardless of the legal model, but more conservative models such as criminalization and nordic make our jobs much more unsafe. You can learn more about the various political models and how they affect sex workers here.
9. Change your language
“Whore” is a derogatory term to describe sex workers, and many find it offensive when thrown around by non workers. Racialized slurs such as “ho” and “thot” are used to describe black women, and should not be used by any other group. Eliminate these words and create a safer space for those around you.
10. Stand up for us when we’re not around
Stigma is the most dangerous part of our jobs, and challenging it can be a life or death issue. Please stand up for us whenever you can. This might mean engaging in a difficult conversation with a family member or friend, or advocating for us when you hear someone tell a cruel joke. Your efforts mean the world to us, and are instrumental in shifting larger perspectives of sex work in society.
The fight for sex workers’ rights and freedoms is ongoing. Allies are more important than ever, especially in light of the recent forces at work which seek to censor sex and suppress sex work altogether. The work that you do in challenging yourself and uplifting our voices has a tremendous impact, both in our lives and for the betterment of a society as a whole.
Pro tip: If you are a client or someone who enjoys consuming porn or the services of sex workers, keep seeking out companies that put sex workers first, like afterglow!
Want to know more? Read our Guide to Ethical Porn.
About Zuzanna Gabrielli
Zuzanna Gabrielli is a Berlin-based independent escort and advocate for sex worker rights. She is currently working on her first novel and slings lots of weird, wet and wild content on her Onlyfans. You can hear more of her thoughts (and a few bad jokes) via her podcast, the Candid Companion ( @candidcompanion)
60% of women are dissatisfied with their sex lives. We’re on a mission to change that.
What if you didn’t have to search to find a body that looks like yours, a sex act that turns you on, or a guided exercise that helps you tell your partner exactly what you’ve been craving?
What if YOUR pleasure came first?