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Terminology and the Sex Industry

Lets talk terminology, context and how language can either create stigma or help remove it.

There are many words in society to describe sex workers. Prostitute,  hooker, whore, escort, working lady or man, sex worker. When we see or hear these words used they can bring up a range of images or ideas for different people.

When we look at media, movies, general society, even some academics and a range of others who like to weigh in on sex work there are those who choose to use words such as whore, hooker even prostitute in a negative way. To make it seem like sex workers are victims, bad people, have no morals or even considered “loose”. These negative ideas and images help to keep stigma in place and make it difficult to try and have people understand Sex work is real work. It is a job, a career and for many a choice.

Many in the industry have expressed the opinion of taking ownership of these words. And by taking ownership of these words thus removing their ability to hurt. But I think that its time for society to understand why if these words used in a negative context can be harmful.

They can be harmful because stigma puts sex workers in a position where maybe they cant feel free to be open about how they earn an income, it means that by being in the industry it can be held against them. And it means that at times they may not feel safe.

Each state in Australia has different laws and to help us to try and make changes we need the support of both sex workers and those who use our services and just supporters. It means that we need to start using positive terminology to help remove stigma. Yes there is more to making change then just words but these play a part in the negative or positive view of sex work.

The Australian Human Rights Commission report on addressing sexual orientation and/or gender identity discrimination notes the importance of ‘using appropriate, inclusive and empowering terminology’.

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