All work is exploitation.

The government has decided to ban sex industry jobs’ adverts in Jobcentres. The Employment Minister Chris Grayling took the decision saying that: “It’s absolutely wrong that the government advertises jobs that could support the exploitation of people“.

What strikes me in that sentence is that this gentleman has a very upper class view of what exploitation is. For most working class people, all work is exploitation, and all the jobs advertised in Jobcentres support the exploitation of people.

On the contrary, Mr Grayling is making a separation between sex work as exploitation and all other jobs as non exploitation. The millions of workers in this country will be happy to learn from now that their work is not exploitative as long as they don’t show a sexual part of their body.

Other anti-sex work campaigners go even further and redefine work itself, saying that sex work is never work given that it is always inherently exploitation, and therefore analyse work as different from exploitation.

But for most sex workers like me, sex work is an economic strategy that is precisely helping us to escape jobs that we see as more exploitative and that we often already did before sex work. As a student, I don’t have many available economic options which are better than sex work in terms of wages and that provide me free time, crucial to keep studying.

This decision is not about helping young people like me who will be exploited in the sex industry. The government does nothing to fight against exploitation in the sex industry or to improve sex workers’ condition. It is just about preventing us to make the choice to work in the sex industry and telling us what we should do with our body.

In the context of an economic crisis, when people are struggling to find a job, we need the government to fight for more jobs, not to be told what exploitation is from people who obviously have no idea of what it means. Nothing is done to improve unemployed people’s choices of work. If it was the case, there would be no blackmail to lose your benefits if you refuse too many job offers. It is only about telling us what kind of job is acceptable to do or not.

Indeed, this policy is only about sending a message about what is acceptable in our society. A society, in which those whose job is to bear weapons and to kill are celebrated as heroes and those whose job is to give pleasure and happiness are stigmatised and criminalised. The government has no problem with recruitment adverts in Jobcentres for the army that will not only exploit young people but risk to take their lives.

This policy is not surprising coming from a Tory government. It wouldn’t have been a surprise if it was passed by New Labour either. But many people in the Labour movement also support the ban. For them, I will end the article with this quote from Karl Marx: “Prostitution is only a particular expression of the universal prostitution of the worker”.


About Thierry Schaffauser

Queer, sex worker, drugs user, student in Gender History, GMB trade unionist, migrant, wants to change the world, etc
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