Sex work should not be confused with sexual slavery. The difference is consent, as sex worker Madison Missina explains.
I was seven when Pretty Woman was released. I don’t know exactly what age I was when I first watched the movie but I was certainly young; it is a movie that I have grown up with. I also already had an inkling that when I grew up, I too, would become a prostitute (sex worker is our preferred term). And that is exactly what I did.
To me, Pretty Woman is love story, about a woman who meets a man and they fall in love and after just enough drama, they live happily ever after. Beautiful.
However just recently this beautiful story has been tarnished by accounts of sex trafficking, in Laila Mickelwait’s article The tragic reality behind the inspiration of ‘Pretty Woman’.
You can read the article here: The tragic reality behind the inspiration for ‘Pretty Woman’.
Mickelwait appears to have a created a life where she advocates and helps the victims of sex trafficking which is wonderful. Yet, in her article, Mickelwait has confused sex trafficking with sex work and has touched a raw nerve of the sex work community. In response, our community created the hashtag #FacesOfProstitution in protest.
You see, as a sex worker, it is offensive to be told that I’m a victim and that I need to be saved from an occupation that I freely choose and that I love.
Mickelwait’s article finishes with this quote
“Maria is a victim of sex trafficking. Julia’s role was indeed a fantasy. The reality isn’t pretty. Don’t believe the myth.”
It is incorrect to make this connection. Pretty Woman is the story of a sex worker, not the story of a victim of sex trafficking. Linking the two is like saying nearly every romantic comedy is a myth because arranged marriages still occur, or domestic violence still occurs so we shouldn’t believe the myth of romantic love.It seems time and time again when the topic of sex work comes up, it gets confused with the topic sex trafficking. Whilst sex workers and the victims of sex trafficking both exchange sex for goods and/or services, there is one very important difference: consent.
Sex trafficking is a crime. It is forcing people to participate in sex work against their consent. The sex work community, like the majority of the greater community, is avidly opposed to sex trafficking.
A sex worker is a person who chooses to partake in sex work as a vocation.
In Australia, it is largely decriminalised or legalised and is a valid career option for those who choose it.
While it is difficult for some people to grasp, there are people in society who actively choose sex work. When you listen to our voices, we are saying that we are empowered, we largely love our professions and we are still fighting for our rights and to end the stigma of sex work.
And, yes, some of us dream as little girls to grow up to become sex workers. I know this is true because I was one, and I am not unique.