Sex Work and Arrest

This will probably be the first of many posts about the police and sex work.

Most people who take the time to think about sex workers think that sex workers should stop selling sex. So they propose several ways to make trading sex more difficult, less profitable, and riskier. They create Prostitution Free Zones, they  use condoms as evidence of prostitution, they  arrest sex workers and/or their customers.

But let’s look at arrest. Let me tell you how it reduces agency.

Agency can be defined as a person’s ability to make changes in their own life. Agency is dependent on many different factors, including age, race, education, gender, economic standing, belief in your own ability to make change, self-esteem, and can be negatively affected by trauma and grief. There are so many influences on a person’s agency that I can’t name them all. Not only that, an event that increases the agency of one person may negatively influence the agency of another.

In light of that, let’s look at the first option for dealing with sex workers: arrest and jail. What happens when you’re arrested? In many states, your picture is taken and either given to the local media, or posted on law enforcement’s website. (I could link to several of these pages, but I refuse to participate in limiting the sex workers’ agency.)

Next, you’re locked up. Guess what “locked up” is? Zero agency. You are told when to eat, when to shower, who can visit you, when to exercise, what you can do in the meantime. Then they go through the court system, where others will tell them what to do, and then, when they’re set free, they’re given a list of things to do. At that point, they’re supposed to become “respectable” members of society and not sell sex.

Only, guess what? Have you ever tried to get a job with a police record? Or had someone do a Google search on your before hiring you? What if they found those photos?

So the ways the agency of sex workers is helped through arrest is this: it’s harmed. Arrest limits options, rather than creating more.



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