‘Sex work’: Why we are not buying it

by The Council of Disobedient Women

There are over 40 million women in prostitution in the world, and we’ve got some questions for people who say the sex industry is a liberating work environment and that prostitution is just like any other job.

Where are the workers’ rights?

What other job has the inside of the worker’s body as the workplace? Why is the inside of a woman’s body considered both a service provider and the product?

Why don’t prostitutes’ unions have collective agreements that stipulate the tasks of the job? How many times in an 8-hour shift can the mouth, vagina, anus of the worker be penetrated? Is there a safe limit?

Why do pro-sex trade advocates talk of harm minimisation and at the same time claim that the sex industry is not harmful? Why is the rate of PTSD higher in prostituted women than returned soldiers? 

Ninety-nine percent of prostituted women have been victims of violence and they are injured more often than workers in the most dangerous occupations. Why is there is zero concern about workplace deaths in the sex trade and Worksafe in NZ completely ignore it?

Does ACC* cover time off work for a bruised body, a torn vagina, a bleeding  anus? If prostitution is a job like any other, where are the unions advocating for safety gear? Why are women in prostitution not issued stab vests, boots, helmets, face shields? What other industry’s union suggests workers leave DNA evidence at work in case of their murder? (See the NZPC advice booklet).

How do sexual harassment laws apply to women in prostitution? Most jobs say verbal abuse will not be tolerated and unwanted physical contact is an offense.
Would you promote prostitution as a first-time job with positive increasing career prospects, salary, health and safety processes to your daughter, granddaughter, niece, young female family member or friend? Why is this the only job where being young and having no experience pays more? Why is this a job that recruits mainly young and often homeless girls? If it is so empowering why are the brothels not staffed by well-to-do men and women?

Consent or coercion

Why is the unwanted sex in prostitution treated as consensual sex? Elsewhere in society this is recognised as rape. Does the exchange of money negate or lessen an act of abuse? If a sex offender pays money to his rape victim did the abuse not happen? Why is it acceptable for women’s bodies to be purchased for male pleasure, where only one party wants the sex?

It is universally recognised that women in prostitution dissociate to cope with the unwanted sex. As a result drug and alcohol abuse is common. Why in this job is it accepted that the workers will use alcohol and drugs, routinely in fact, at work? Why is being stoned or drunk during sex considered non-consensual sex in society but a norm and consensual for the sex trade?

Powerful jobs are dominated by males. Yet over 90 percent of prostitutes are female and 99 percent of the customers male.

In what other industry or service does the customer demand to be lied to? What other job has all the workers using aliases?

If prostitution is an expression of self-determination why do so many prostitutes want to exit the industry? Why are there no services or funding for women who want to leave the industry when so many want out?

Slavery was abolished so why do we still have prostitution

Why do people say prostitution is the oldest profession when it is well known that farming was? Why do some people say there will always be a sex trade? Why do they say it cannot be stopped when slavery was banned, and dangerous jobs like working with asbestos have been deemed too dangerous to allow? Child abuse and murder are not accepted despite also being prevalent and showing no signs of abating and they are not accepted as something we have to normalise.

Is trafficked prostitution very different to local prostitution? Is economic coercion into prostitution very different from physical coercion into the sex trade? Can they be separated given that women who are trafficked are also in economic strife? Is it not revealing that the punters do not distinguish between trafficked and ‘non-trafficked’ prostituted women?

Why is it that in Scandanavia – where women have the least inequality –  buying sex is illegal? This Nordic Model penalises the punters, not the women in prostitution.

Why does the sex industry claim their trade is a human right when there is nothing immutable about prostitution? It is not like skin colour or biological sex which cannot be changed.

Is being subjected to unwanted sex a job? Is it cool and liberating? Are some women cut out for this work while it’s too tough for other women? Are there really two types of women? Or is there just a truckload of misogyny being wheeled about?

On International Working Women’s Day 2020 we say no more lies, end the barbaric practice of men purchasing women for sex.


*ACC is New Zealand’s state-funded injury insurance scheme


  1. One of the clinchers for me was when someone I was just getting to know, Tim Leadbeater as it happens, challenged me on this issue.

    If prostitution was just a form of work, he challenged me, would I accept being fucked by some landlord in lieu of rent the way I might mow the lawn or do some painting in lieu of rent? I thought and thought and couldn’t come up with an answer to my own satisfaction. I could hardly say I wasn’t interested in men sexually because it was not about sexual attraction just about work. So that couldn’t be used as an out. We all do work that we don’t like at some point in our lives, but this was clearly very different. It is not “just work”.

    I know men on the left who still hold the view that it is just a form of work and objection to it is some kind of anti-sex, conservative moralism. Yet, I doubt they’d be lining up to get fucked by male landlords in lieu of rent. They’d be incensed.

    Yet they seem woefully incapable of empathy with women who might feel exactly the same way, including women who have been prostituted.

    In a truly liberated society the cash nexus will not determine relations between human beings at either the level of society or in private/personal interactions.

    We will all be free.

    This was a position I held many years ago, but had lost sight of along the way. Glad to get it back!

    Phil F

    • No, that argument is an excuse for inaction.

      Germany is a high income, developed capitalist country. Sweden is a high income, developed capitalist country. Sweden has partial legalisation – the punters can be prosecuted the prostitutes cannot. There are support systems to help women leave prostitution in Sweden. There have been no prostitutes murdered by punters since that law came in 1999. Prostitution has declined in Sweden. Men who go to prostitutes are seen as losers, it is considered a shameful thing.

      In Germany there have been 91 murdered prostitutes and 48 attempted murders since liberalisation in 2002. They had “1-hour all you can fuck for 90 Euro “deals until recently.

      In the Netherlands it was fully legalised in 2000 and 127 prostitutes have been murdered.

      While the Nordic Model does not solve all the problems or remove every vestige of misogyny it has reduced the amount of prostitution that takes place, and curbed the growth of the industry.

      People in Sweden campaigned for that legislation because they recognised that there could be no equality of the sexes as long as people accepted that women’s bodies could be bought for sex.

      • Other ways to raise oxytocin levels? Or better learn to live with lower oxytocin?

      • Develop social skills and have relationships where there is mutual attraction, not sexual abuse.

  2. Yep but for some that could be like pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. Which is possibly a reason why prostitution exists. For some sadly getting as far as to a prostitute may already be a social step forward. As I said need to improve social conditions. Occupations where people can have some success and company.

    • Men who buy sex come from all strata, employed, unemployed, rich and poor. It’s about misogyny on steroids. Prostitution arose with the development of patriachy and under capitalism it is amplified with rampant commodification. It’s not a social step forward and nor is practising sexual abuse a means to companionship! Do you think the prostituted woman wants sex with the punter? Do you think she wants to spend a moment more than is necessary with the punter? Read Rachel Moran’s book Paid For.

      • It’s also probably about their pimps making big money.

        Before the Christchurch quake I quite often used to walk to a job, crossing over Manchester St where several girls would be spaced out.

        From my youth I have always tended to look at faces in the street. But I sort off felt it better to change that.

        I saw cars sometimes stop and the girl get in.

        Sometimes a white community van would park in the vicinity for the girls.

  3. It wasn’t happening in the 1980s I am pretty sure. May have been a result of the 1984 government policy whatever the deeper source of that may have been: some unemployment figure to have to accompany government borrowing? Then TV ran a program making it seem prostitution to be a desirable option for mothers to give their kids a better life, sort of thing.

  4. Daphna wrote: “It’s not a social step forward and nor is practising sexual abuse a means to companionship!”

    I mean it would seem to be an interaction with another person. So many people are suiciding. ” The number of suicides in New Zealand has reached its highest-ever level, with 685 people dying in the year to June 30.

    That compares to the 2018 road toll where 377 lives were lost.” Even the road toll might be partly suicide, mighn’t it? https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/115290090/suicide-rates-up-on-the-previous-year-latest-figures-show

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