Extreme definition of ‘survival sex worker’ erases male violence

I found this poster a while ago on tumbler:

survival sex worker

It was re-blogged positively on the ‘sex worker problems’ tumbler.

Survival Sex Worker
a person who works in the sex industry who can’t access the right to refuse sex work

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any alternative images that show the rest of the poster.

I meant to write about it in more depth, but I was reminded of it by two articles I read in the Guardian today.

Putting aside the obfuscatory language (“can’t access the right to refuse” = can’t say no), under any other circumstances, a person in a situation where they can’t say no to sex is a victim of rape. But here, because money has changed hands, it’s not rape, it’s ‘survival sex work’. My previous understanding of ‘survival sex work’ or survival prostitution, was people prostituting in order to get their next meal, or a roof over their head for the night, ie, to avoid immediate starvation or harm from environmental exposure.

The above definition re-labels any kind of forced prostitution, including trafficking and sex slavery, as ‘survival sex work’, and thereby conveniently erases the traffickers, the pimps and the johns.

The first article I read today was this one, on the Japanese army’s ‘comfort women’ during World War II. Under the above definition, these women were not victims of male, military violence, they were ‘survival sex workers’ and the institutions and individuals who abused them disappear.

The second article was this one, about the testimony of a man who was abused in an Australian religious institution as a boy, he is quoted as saying (that because of the lack of food): “I would do anything and let anyone do anything to me, just for a feed.” By the above definition, he was not a victim of abuse but a ‘survival sex worker’ (or, rather, a ‘juvenile survival sex worker’), exchanging ‘sex work’ for food, and the men who abused him have disappeared.


2 responses

  1. I just want to post this screen cap to show that the tumblr blog ‘sex worker proplems’ did indeed post this image with positive commentary:

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