Response to “Sex work not safe for college students”

By Letter to the Editor, by Jeff Sanderson

 I am writing to comment on your conclusion to the article about sex work being unsafe for college students.  You wrap up by claiming “sex work is a legitimate job choice for those who have fully considered both the consequences and benefits.” I take strong exception to the idea that sex work is a ‘legitimate’ job choice.  Sex work is exploitation, and sex workers are the victims.  I know folks sometimes think supporting sex work is empowering to the people who do this work.  They probably want to live in a world where sex workers are safer and feel less marginalized, and I agree with that, just to be clear.  But touting the legitimacy of this work is not the same as supporting and empowering the workers themselves, who deserve much more than they get from almost everyone in our society today.  Finally, I think it’s vital that we differentiate the legitimate goal of celebrating sex-positivity from the point you made about the ‘legitimacy’ of sex work.

The reason folks do sex work is that they are almost always facing bills and expenses, or they face poverty and homelessness, but they don’t have other employment options available.  Sex work has a single benefit: the money.  But rather than describing this work as legitimate, we should champion change that would lead to more jobs and support for those facing marginalization, including sex workers, and we should strive to be more accepting of people who face stigma of all kinds.  And I bet we would all agree that few if any groups face more stigma than sex workers.

I think it’s clear that sex work is anything but legitimate.  Sex work is cruel and dehumanizing exploitation for almost everyone involved, from porn actors to prostitutes to strippers.  None of that will change unless we stop pretending that this work is a legitimate job choice made by people who have enough ‘choices’ in the first place. 

Jeff Sanderson, associate director of Admissions Counseling in the Undergraduate Admissions Office