Rethinking sex work

Playing the Whore

The No. 1 claim made by Melissa Gira Grant, a former sex worker, in Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work (Verso, $14.95) is simple and clear: Sex work is work, and as such, needs to be considered as labor performed by people who have a right to decent working conditions. This neatly separates discussion of sex work from “human trafficking” or any type of sex abuse that involves an unwilling person; if she or he didn't give consent, they're enslaved, not working. Her argument is purely from a labor perspective, which is, on the one hand, refreshing, and on the other, a bit disturbing. It's possible to seek a middle ground where sex work is destigmatized and at the same time, the economic conditions that make people potential workers are alleviated.