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Stigma and stereotypes about sex work hinder regulatory reform

Paul Maginn and Emily Cooper write in The Conversation (3.8.17) that consensual sex work, like non-commercial sex, mostly happens behind closed doors. Yet, the authors highlight, stigma toward and ignorance about sex workers makes people panic when we try to talk about reform.

‘Mention the word “prostitution” and there’s more than a fair chance that most people will automatically think of a drug-dependent female in high heels and a mini-skirt shivering on a cold and darkened street in a dodgy part of the city.

‘This stereotypical image is largely informed by popular cultural and media representations of sex workers and red-light districts. Socially conservative politicians, religious organisations, and certain branches of radical feminism also play an instrumental role in perpetuating this stereotype and reinforcing the stigma endured by sex workers.

‘However, sex work is much more complex and nuanced in terms of the types of people who offer commercial sexual services, the types of sex work they perform, where sex work takes place, and why people engage in it.

‘… Consensual sex work and human trafficking for sexual exploitation are wrongly conflated, by certain political, religious and feminist groups, as being one and the same thing.’

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