Who Are We Really Trying To Protect?

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In class, as Lauren was talking about the women who believe that sex workers are being brainwashed by the patriarchy all I could think of was Peggy Orenstein and just how patronizing the whole argument was. Of course, there are legitimate reasons to be wary of sex work and its effects on those who do it, but I find the whole “they just don’t know what they’re doing and we must save them” idea to be both victimizing and infantilizing. Yes, victims of sex work do exist but I don’t think that victimizing all women who chose to do this work accomplishes anything in terms of feminism. By making prostitution illegal you don’t help women, you make their lives even harder. When acts of violence are committed against them many are too afraid to go to police, so the men (largely) go free and commit these acts over and over again as seen by the numerous serial killers and rapists who get away because they target sex workers who they know the police don’t care about because of their “high-risk lifestyles”. Gary Ridgway targeted sex workers and runaways from 1992-1998 confessing to 49 murders but is presumed to have killed more than 90 women. Instead of pushing sex workers further underground or “saving them from themselves” we should aim to allow them the freedom and safety to conduct their business in whichever way they see fit.

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