the conversation

Women working in the sex work industry--be it pornography, stripping or prostitution--sit in the cross-hairs of an enduring controversy, surfacing questions surrounding everything from sexuality and health to economics and morality.

To shed light on this multifaceted debate, we reached out to those who know the industry best--including a clinical sexologist, a community advocate for workers' rights, an attorney in the commercial sex trade, and both current and former sex workers--to answer this question:

Is female sex work empowering, enslaving...or a lot more complicated than either?

Here's what they had to say.

To Become A Woman Is To Become A Whore

Before you became a whore you were an insecure child, doing for free that which could set you free.
Submitted by Akynos | 09.8.14 6pm

Sex Work Isn't Consensual Or Exploitative—It Can Be Both

It's time to talk substantively and honestly about how sex work isn't any one thing.
Submitted by Melissa Petro | 09.8.14 5pm

Why Am I Only Asked About My Health On The Job When The Job Is Sex Work?

As long as the only industry where women consistently earn more than men carries such stigma, I have to question how empowering sex work can be.
Submitted by Kitty Stryker | 09.8.14 2pm

Selling Sex Is About Making Money

When I sold sex it was about the money. It wasn’t about empowerment, nor is it for most people.
Submitted by Ruth Jacobs | 09.8.14 12pm

The Questions We're Asking About Sex Work Are Wrong

As a community organizer, I'm often asked what sex work is. But I can more easily answer what it is not.
Submitted by Kate D'Adamo | 09.8.14 7am

Sex Workers Want Rights—Not Rescue

I ask to be allowed to do my job in safety and to be treated with dignity and respect.
Submitted by Laura Lee | 09.8.14 6am
Photo by Isabel Dresler—isabeldresler.com

For Me, Sex Work Has Been My Path To The American Dream

Sex work is a way for me provide for my family, own my own business, and make my way toward long-term financial stability.
Submitted by Siouxsie Q. James | 09.8.14 6am

Why Stripping Isn't Empowering For Anyone

Stripping encourages men to view women as commodities—and to value them for their ability to please.
Submitted by Alexandra M. | 09.8.14 5am

Sex Work Simply Is

Arbitrary moral standards aside, I think sex work is best understood as a labor issue.
Submitted by Dr. Richard Wagner | 09.8.14 3am

Pornographers Value Profits Over People

I did everything the adult film industry told me to do—and now I am HIV-positive.
Submitted by Cameron Adams | 09.8.14 2am

I Represent Sex Workers Because Sex Work Is Work And Sex Workers Are People

The myth of the common "Sex Worker Experience" is silly and inauthentic.
Submitted by Robin Richardson | 09.8.14 1am