The BBC has used the term ‘sex work’ in an article about drug dealing and child slavery. I have sent the following complaint:
I am writing to complain about the use of the term ‘sex work’ in an article about child slavery: ‘County-lines gangs fuelling’ child slavery rise.
Words matter, the BBC is supposed to be politically neutral, the debate over whether prostitution is ‘work like any other’ or exploitation and abuse is still ongoing in the UK. The use of the term ‘sex work’ is partisan, and it is begging the question (asking whether ‘sex work is work’ is like asking ‘is this bad thing bad’).
No child is a ‘sex worker’; even in countries that have legalised/decriminalised the sex industry, it is still illegal to purchase sex from anyone under the age of 18.
Calling a commercially raped adult or child a ‘sex worker’ reduces a sexual abuse issue to a mere labour issue.
Please consider complaining to the BBC, and please feel free to copy or adapt the above template. The BBC is a publicly funded body, indirectly through our taxes, and directly through the licence fee, they have to listen to complaints. You will probably be fobbed of with a standard response (as I was in a previous case), you will need to follow-up and say you were not satisfied with the original response to your complaint. You do not have to be a UK citizen to complain, but the form will ask you where you live.
This is how powerful the sex industry lobbyists are; they complain about being ‘marginalised’ and ‘silenced’ but they have managed to change the way we use language so much that mainstream news sources now routinely call commercially raped adults and children ‘sex workers’. I am sure there are post-modern academics right now writing papers about the ‘choice’ and ‘agency’ of the children being used as drug-mules, but that language is currently confined to academia.
The legalised cannabis industry in the US lobbies for tighter controls and regulations, while the organisations claiming to speak on behalf of prostitutes and porn performers lobby for fewer controls. The legalised cannabis industry is controlled by a completely different group of people than the illegal industry, while whenever the sex industry is legalised/decriminalised, the pimps and brothel keepers are rebranded as ‘sex entrepreneurs’, even while they still rely on trafficking to fuel their industry.
(That people, mostly poor and black, are still in prison in the US for crimes committed pre-legalisation of an industry now mostly run by middle-class white people is a real issue, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the legalised cannabis industry is cleaned-up and well-regulated, while the legalised/decriminalised sex industry is basically just rubber-stamping what was going on already and turning criminals into ‘business men’.)