Friday, 2 January 2015

Choice or not ? Academic request for input from sex workers.

In the debate about sex work, people constantly bring up the question whether or not someone can ‘choose’ to do sex work. Radical feminists and other abolitionists argue that no one would ever choose to sell sexual services; and that people (or rather: women, as abolitionists tend to ignore male and transgender sex workers) are ‘forced’ to sell sex because of whatever their life circumstances are. The opposing view would be to say that it is (usually) sex workers’ ‘free/rational choice’ to engage in sex work.

I would like to pose the following question to escorts/sex workers:

Do you feel that becoming an escort was a ‘choice’ you made? Why/why not? Were there alternatives, and if so, what kinds of alternatives? If you feel that it was a choice, what led you to make this decision? If you felt that it wasn’t really a choice, what was it that led you to sell sex in the first place?

And I would also like to ask: do you feel that other people (family members etc.) who are not sex workers had more (or less) of a choice regarding how to make a living and feel less ‘forced’ (or more forced!) to do what they are doing?

A bit about me: I am a researcher and supporter of sex worker rights (and opponent of the criminalisation of clients). You may have read about the piece of research we did in 2014 – the study on sex work funded by the Northern Irish Department of Justice (which, by the way, is available here.

I am currently writing a critical academic article about the idea of ‘choice’ in relation to sex work and would like to include the views of sex workers (and clients, if they want to comment) in the article. As always, I will not use people’s names or aliases nor will I include any information that allows readers to identify the people cited. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions:


  1. Laura
    I am a 45 year old mother of two who is a sex worker by choice. I made that choice for a number of reasons.
    I am a single parent. My children's father is not involved in their lives. I needed a job where I could work various hours that suited me.
    I am university educated and worked in health care for many years but could never find a job that I could leave on a minutes notice if one of my children was sick, or take holidays during school holidays to be with them.
    My alternative work options were to work between 40-50 hours a week at hours that did not suit my children's schooling or after school activities.
    Now I work around 25 hours a week. Around my children's lives. I am able to volunteer at their schools and be there for them at sports and other activities.
    I chose sex work as a viable career alternative. It made sense to me to pick the job where I could work 'smarter' not 'longer'.
    It also helps that I make 3 times the money I made in heath care for roughly half the time spent working.
    My children are happier now and so am I.
    Other women I know who are single mothers and work full time do not have the same opportunities to spend time with their children as I do.
    I cannot speak for others feeling 'forced' but I know that for me I wanted to be available for my children and to be involved in their lives in a way I could not when I was working a 'legitimate' job.

    1. Thank you very much for your comment. I can really relate to that as a parent too and I wish you all the best. xx

  2. I am not a sex worker but a sex work researcher as well (and supporter of sex workers' rights, opponent of 'end demand' policies). I would be really interested to read this paper when it's written - can you please keep me posted? My Email is a.e.phipps at sussex dot ac dot uk. Thanks :)

    1. Hello there and thanks for your comment. I'd be delighted to. Feel free to nag though, head like a sieve. :)

  3. I chose to become a sex worker for an odd set of reasons. I had a very difficult upbringing, and was often at odds with my parents. It was an act of rebellion, of aligning myself with the very things that they disparaged. Imagine my surprise when, within the arenas of BDSM, sex work, pornography and adult performance, I found people who, to my eye looked kinder and more ethical than the family I left behind. So yes, definitely choice, but also circumstance. I have no regrets, and consider my choices have led me to becoming a much better person than my upbringing did.

  4. I explain why i do sex work here saves me typing it out again


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